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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.

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

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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.

Today many people are familiar with this puzzle and its solution.

In the 1970s, however, very few were even aware of its existence, even though it had been around for almost a century.

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.

If you have tried solving this puzzle, you can confirm that your first attempts usually involve sketching lines inside the imaginary square.

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

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.

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

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