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The idea went viral (via 1970s-era media and word of mouth, of course).Overnight, it seemed that creativity gurus everywhere were teaching managers how to think outside the box. 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.The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array.In other words, the “trick” was revealed in advance.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).
What the latest experiment proves is not that creativity lacks any association to thinking outside-the-box, but that such is not conditioned by acquired knowledge, i.e., environmental concerns.
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.
Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts.
No one, that is, before two different research teams—Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure.
Management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients.