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Take a look at this puzzle. It's called the Nine-Dot Puzzle. It's a puzzle because you have to take your pencil and draw four straight lines and connect all nine dots. It's tricky, and if you would like to try it, you can pause the video right here before I show the solution. Now you may have seen this puzzle before, and if you have, you know that there is a trick to solving it. Let me show you. First, you draw your line here, then on your second line, instead of stopping on the last dot, you have to extend your line out to here.
You do the same on your third line, extending outside the boundaries to here, and then you complete the puzzle like this. Pretty clever. This famous puzzle was used by a researcher in the 1970s, who found that on average, only 20% of participants could solve it. And so he concluded that it was obvious, to be more creative, we have to think outside the box. I am sure you've heard that phrase many times.
But guess what? Soon after that research, two other researchers repeated the study but told participants they had to draw the lines outside the box created by the nine dots. In other words, they were given the solution. You would think most everyone could solve it, yet only about 20% could solve it. There was no improvement. Thinking outside the box is a myth. Thinking outside the box sends your mind on a wild cognitive goose chase, searching for an idea that you may never find.
You open your mind to a vast wide open space that could overwhelm you. Yet the most popular creativity methods are based on this idea of thinking in an unconstrained way. The most famous of these is brainstorming, a technique that was created in the late 1940s. If you're like most people, you've participated in many brainstorming sessions. But did you know that over 50 years of scientific study into brainstorming shows conclusively it doesn't work? Researchers compared a group of people brainstorming to the same number of people ideating on their own working on the same task.
When they combined the ideas of the individuals and compared them to the ideas from the brainstorming group, the individuals produced 80% more ideas and better ideas than the brainstorming group. Brainstorming has many limitations, and it can actually hold back your creative potential. So why do people still use brainstorming if it doesn't work? For my experience, people either don't know about the research, or they don't have a better technique to replace it. My advice is to avoid using brainstorming as a way to generate ideas.
Use it instead as a team-building tool or perhaps as a way to get a quick snapshot of what people are thinking about. The best innovators are always looking for the best tools. Find those techniques that give you the best result and then master them.
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