46 / The Nine Dot Puzzle

Here are nine dots to test you. Your task is to connect all nine dots with four straight, uninterrupted lines, i.e. you are not allowed to lift your (imaginary) pen from the paper.

Obviously the puzzle is a tease; it is either impossible or very easy to solve - depending on which approach you use. Apparently the puzzle was used widely in recruitment in the 1970s - it has been claimed that the use of the nine dot puzzle in consultancy circles stems from the Walt Disney Company, where the puzzle was used in-house; and according to Martin Kihn of Fast Company, consultants of the 1970s and 1980s tried to make their prospective clients feel inferior by presenting them with the puzzle. 

Here is a clue: The solution includes the terms, 'square' (or 'box'), 'outside' and 'thinking'. 

The puzzle is easily solved, but only if you draw the lines outside of the confines of the square area defined by the nine dots themselves. Thus, the phrase "thinking outside the box" was born. The Word Mavens refer to Prof. Daniel Kies of the College of DuPage, who observes that the puzzle only seems difficult because "we imagine a boundary around the edge of the dot array."

Thinking outside the box is to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel, creative and smart thinking. This is sometimes called a process of lateral thought. The catchphrase, or cliché, has become widely used in business environments, especially by management consultants and executive coaches, and has spawned a number of advertising slogans.

The nine dots puzzle is much older than the slogan. It appears in Sam Loyd's 1914 Cyclopedia of Puzzles and is attributed to Henry Ernest Dudeney. The solution is below, just scroll down.