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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.
Overnight, it seemed that creativity gurus everywhere were teaching managers how to think outside the box.
Management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients.
Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves.
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.That is, direct and explicit instructions to think outside the box did not help.That this advice is useless when actually trying to solve a problem involving a real box should effectively have killed off the much widely disseminated—and therefore, much more dangerous—metaphor that out-of-the-box thinking spurs creativity.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.