Think Out of the Box

by Mike Vance and Diane Deacon

People use the term “think out of the box” in reference to creativity, innovation, or unconventional approaches to solving a problem. I suspect many people who use this cliché have no idea where it came from.

The term was popularized in 1995 by the book Think Out of the Box. The box is a puzzle.


The instructions are:

  1. Connect all nine dots using no more than four straight lines.
  2. The dots cannot be repositioned.
  3. The connecting line must be drawn in one continuous stroke.
  4. Leave the pencil on the paper until all lines have been drawn.

“The concept behind the solutions is to not allow our thinking to be contained and limited by imaginary boundaries. Thinking outside of boundaries and limitations is what creative thinking is clearly about.”

This is one solution. There are supposedly many other ways to solve the puzzle.


“Wayne Gretsky goes to where the hockey puck is going to be. That’s thinking out of the box. Are you focused on where the market’s going to be rather than where it is? Think about it.”

The book is about creativity. The metaphor represented by this puzzle is the most interesting part.

Vance, Mike, and Diane Deacon. Think out of the Box. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 1995. Buy from

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