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Tell me, I’ll forget Show me, I’ll remember  Involve me, I’ll understand (a chinese proverb)

The nine-dot puzzle and the phrase “thinking outside the box” became metaphors for creativity and spread like wildfire in marketing, management, psychology, the creative arts, engineering, and personal improvement circles.

There seemed to be no end to the insights that could be offered under the banner of thinking outside the box. 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.

Indeed, the concept enjoyed such strong popularity and intuitive appeal that no one bothered to check the facts.

No one, that is, before two different research teams—Clarke Burnham with Kenneth Davis, and Joseph Alba with Robert Weisberg—ran another experiment using the same puzzle but a different research procedure.

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.

The second group was told that the solution required the lines to be drawn outside the imaginary box bordering the dot array. In other words, the “trick” was revealed in advance. Would you like to guess the percentage of the participants in the second group who solved the puzzle correctly?

Most people assume that 60 percent to 90 percent of the group given the clue would solve the puzzle easily. In fact, only a meager 25 percent did.


I asked this same question after meeting clients or seminar participants and ask them if they were able to implement any or many of the things they learnt. Most say not.


What is the challenge that even after you show people the solutions they still wont figure it out by themselves?

The Chinese proverb states: Tell me, I’ll forget - Show me, I’ll remember - Involve me, I’ll understand

Meaning, our short-term memory brain doesn’t retain much especially if we’re distracted or bored. In order for the brain to retain, we need to make learning much more experiential.

According to one learning expert, we need to engage with the participants every 7-9 minutes, with questions and activities, known as active participation.

I also find that where there is a high level of change and stepping out of the box (comfort zone) it requires serious hands on, otherwise people revert back very easily to their comfort zone.

Companies do not emphasize and incentivize their people to change.

Make it part of the compensation!

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