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Because they hadn’t, they were obviously not as creative or smart as they had previously thought, and needed to call in creative experts. The nine-dot puzzle and the phrase “thinking outside the box” became metaphors for creativity and spread like wildfire in marketing, management, psychology, the creative arts, engineering, and personal improvement circles.

There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.

At the first stages, all the participants in Guilford’s original study censored their own thinking by limiting the possible solutions to those within the imaginary square (even those who eventually solved the puzzle).

Even though they weren’t instructed to restrain themselves from considering such a solution, they were unable to “see” the white space beyond the square’s boundaries.

Only 20 percent managed to break out of the illusory confinement and continue their lines in the white space surrounding the dots.

The correct solution, however, requires you to draw lines that extend beyond the area defined by the dots.

Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups.

The first group was given the same instructions as the participants in Guilford’s experiment.

Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity.

He challenged research subjects to connect all nine dots using just four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page.

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