Today many people are familiar with this puzzle and its solution.
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.
Management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s even used this puzzle when making sales pitches to prospective clients.
Because the solution is, in hindsight, deceptively simple, clients tended to admit they should have thought of it themselves.
The idea went viral (via 1970s-era media and word of mouth, of course).
Overnight, it seemed that creativity gurus everywhere were teaching managers how to think outside the box.
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.
In other words, the difference could easily be due to what statisticians call sampling error.