Think Outside the Box

9dots.svgLeonardo da Vinci’s birthday was April 15th, and that day marks the beginning of World Creativity and Innovation Week, concluding in World Creativity and Innovation Day, April 21st. It’s no coincidence WCID falls the day before Earth Day. The goal of this event is to encourage people everywhere to come together with their best ideas for tackling major global issues, but it’s also a good time to dust off your imagination and problem-solving skills.
It’s a curious phrase: “Thinking outside the box.” It came to popularity with business executives in the 1970s and 1980s (though the origin is much older) who would challenge their clients to the 9-Dots Puzzle. The puzzle is solved when you have linked all 9 dots using four straight lines or fewer, without lifting the pen and without tracing the same line more than once. Solving the puzzle requires you to consider the rules you’re given as well as rules you aren’t given.
Often when we are faced with a problem, we consider our guidelines for action based solely on a small set of instructions we’re given. When some genius comes along with some outlandish solution that seems obvious in retrospect, we throw our hands up and say, “Well, you didn’t tell me I could do that!” So can you train your brain to think creatively?


  • LISTEN: Creative people don’t only put their ideas out there, they listen. Quiet people often have the most to say, they’re just taking in the conversations around them and really thinking about what everyone is saying.
  •  EXPERIMENT: Save yourself valuable thinking time by going hands-on. If there are no consequences to trial and error, you can gather important information by putting your ideas into action rather than just imagining how it might turn out. If it doesn’t work, why? Is that a reason to start over, or just make adjustments?
  •  RECHARGE: Creative people run out of ideas too! They refill their creativity with entertainment and relaxation. Fun is never pointless, and if you can learn something new while having fun, you’re gaining new building blocks for creativity.
  • PRACTICE: Great ideas come to those who practice. Challenge yourself to solve puzzles whenever you have a moment. You’re probably not going to be able to solve them all right away, but you pick up new tricks each time you solve easy puzzles. These are skills you can keep for real problems.

Click for Nine Dot Solution


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