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Management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients.
Overnight, it seemed that creativity gurus everywhere were teaching managers how to think outside the box.
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.
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.