Edward Glassman : Nine Magic Dots and R&D
Nine Magic Dots and R&D
Techniques to Create a Creative Atmosphere
By Edward Glassman, PhD
"R&D people experience a great deal of fun when creative. Not so much HA-HA fun as A-HA fun."
Many people who know the following puzzle think there it has only one answer. If you agree, prepare for a surprise. If you have seen it before, solve it anyway; shift the paradigm and generate another quite different solution.
Here are nine magic dots.
The problem: Draw four connecting straight lines that will touch all nine dots only once without lifting your pen or pencil from the paper.
If you have done it before, find a totally different solution. Spend at least five minutes before reading further...
If you did not solve the problem, what do you see when you look at the nine dots?
If you see a square, or two triangles, or some geometric figure, then you probably blocked yourself by assuming boundaries that do not exist and staying within mind funnels that kept you inside the lines.
A HABIT THAT SPOILS R&D CREATIVE THINKING: We often assume boundaries that may not exist. We stay within the lines. We think within the rules. We use unstated, phantom criteria. We use past company policies and attitudes as guidelines on how to do things without checking it out with others. We don't shift paradigms without permission.
You can connect these nine dots with four straight lines by moving outside the boundaries as shown here:
Do you like this answer? Do you think it elegant, the only one possible? Actually, the biggest assumed boundary of this problem comprises the unwarranted assumption that only one answer exists. In fact, you can find dozens of completely different answers to this problem; the one above constitutes a quick fix, the first adequate answer! How can we shift the paradigm and find the others?
We will use a very important, advanced creative thinking procedure I call 'forced withdrawal,' in which we forget the original problem and work to solve a distant version of it. In that way we may find new paradigms, new perspectives, and new solutions. The first forced-withdrawal we shall consider is...
Here are the same nine magic dots.
The problem: This time use three connecting straight lines that touch each dot only once. If you don't solve it, try to discover the mind funnels, assumed boundaries, unwarranted assumptions, and unstated criteria that block you.
First: What do you see when you look at the nine dots? I hope you kicked the habit of seeing a square or some other geometric figure. This time one block comes from seeing the nine dots on a piece of paper. For some solutions to this three-line problem, you need to perceive the nine dots as existing in space, because the lines will leave the paper.
Second: Did you assume that the lines must go through the center of the dots? This unwarranted assumption also blocks you.
Third: How do you define a dot? In school, I learned that a dot represents a point in space with no dimension: without length, width or height. Those circles I call dots have length and width. Is that fair? Well, in real life, dots have length and width, and come in all sizes. On billboards, dots grow to the size of your head, and on clown costumes, polka dots fit the size of your shoe. So include reality in your definition of dots, lest you fall victim to another spoiler of creative thinking.