Most people know the expression to ‘Think Outside the Box’ but are you aware of the exercise that lead to the popularisation of this phrase and what it means? The nine dot problem is where participants are given a piece of paper with a set of dots drawn in a 3×3 grid. You have to join all the dots without lifting your pencil from the paper, using the fewest possible number of straight lines. Initially the problem is tricky as our brains automatically focus on the confines of the problem, in this case the grid, and so limit the number of outcomes. The lesson here is the more outside the box you think, the fewer lines you will need. Once the participant leaves the confines of the grid and begins to think ‘outside the box’, it is possible to join all dots in 4, 3 or even 1 line.
Almost daily I have the opportunity to encourage customers to think outside the box and push boundaries on what is expected from polystyrene or maybe use it in a different way. Recently, while getting some work done in my own house, I was trying to create space in a very restrictive floor plan and in an effort to just get the job done I was doing exactly the opposite of what I advise customers to do. I wasn’t really happy with the way the job was looking so I had a chat with a friend who is a Spacial Planner. After speaking with her she suggested a few ‘interesting’ ideas including, using a curved wall to create more space. Why hadn’t I thought of that myself? I had come at the problem with a preconceived solution and I couldn’t see the many more options available to me. She was coming at the challenge from a completely different perspective and was able to make suggestions a little different from the norm. I was thrilled I had spoken to her because Its not always easy but sometimes coming at a problem from a different angle when you are directly involved but it can make all the difference and can help create something really special.