So, take a stroll down memory lane to remember all of our past Word of the Year selections.
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.
Guilford was one of the first academic researchers who dared to conduct a study of creativity.
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.
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.
Both teams followed the same protocol of dividing participants into two groups.
The first group was given the same instructions as the participants in Guilford’s experiment.
Speakers, trainers, training program developers, organizational consultants, and university professors all had much to say about the vast benefits of outside-the-box thinking.
It was an appealing and apparently convincing message.
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.
The idea went viral (via 1970s-era media and word of mouth, of course).