When it comes to creative problem solving, we often assume constraints that aren’t actually there.

Here is the iconic creativity problem: Draw four straight lines through the nine dots without retracing and without lifting your pen from the paper.

 

medical product development

 

 

The solution to this problem can only be found by going outside the “boundaries” formed by the rectangular arrangement of the dots. It doesn’t occur to most people to extend their line into the space outside the dots. We see the arrangement as a boundary, an implicit rule that must be followed. But nowhere does the problem state that you can’t draw outside the box.

 

medical product development

 

Creative solutions are often found only by challenging accepted rules, many of which we only assume are there. The next time you are faced with a challenging problem, examine the constraints. Are they true constraints, or are they simply a construct of “following the rules”?