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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.

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Speakers, trainers, training program developers, organizational consultants, and university professors all had much to say about the vast benefits of outside-the-box thinking.It was an appealing and apparently convincing message.Would you like to guess the percentage of the participants in the second group who solved the puzzle correctly?Most people assume that 60 percent to 90 percent of the group given the clue would solve the puzzle easily. What’s more, in statistical terms, this 5 percent improvement over the subjects of Guilford’s original study is insignificant.In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error.

Let’s look a little more closely at these surprising results.Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box.Yet participants’ performance was not improved even when they were given specific instructions to do so.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.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.