There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box.
Speakers, trainers, training program developers, organizational consultants, and university professors all had much to say about the vast benefits of outside-the-box thinking.
Although studying creativity is considered a legitimate scientific discipline nowadays, it is still a very young one. One of Guilford’s most famous studies was the nine-dot puzzle.
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).
Let’s look a little more closely at these surprising results.
Solving this problem requires people to literally think outside the box.
Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves.
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.
For example, there have been some theories such as those of Schopenhauer (see his remarks about Genius) and Freud (see his remarks about Sublimation) that propose creativity is something more like a capacity provided by nature rather than one acquired or learned from the environment.