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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.

It was an appealing and apparently convincing message.

Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts.

Even though they weren’t instructed to restrain themselves from considering such a solution, they were unable to “see” the white space beyond the square’s boundaries.

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

What the latest experiment proves is not that creativity lacks any association to thinking outside-the-box, but that such is not conditioned by acquired knowledge, i.e., environmental concerns.

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.

The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array.

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.

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.

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