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Figure 3

Shakespeare Riddle

Source: Raudsepp, E., and Haugh, G. P. (1980). Shakespeare Riddle, in Creative growth games. New York: Perigee.

staphylococci led Fleming to see a relationship no one else had ever seen previously and thus to discover a wonder drug. The famous chemist Friedrich Kekule saw a relationship between his dream of a snake swal- lowing its own tail and the chemical structure of organic compounds. This creative insight led him to the discovery that organic compounds such as ben- zene have closed rings rather than open structures (Koestler, 1964).

To test your own ability to see commonalities, answer the following three questions: (1) What are some common terms that apply to both water and finance? (2) In Figure 4, using the code letters for the smaller ships as a guide, what is the name of the larger ship? (3) What does the single piece of wood look like that will pass through each hole in the block in Figure 5 but that will perfectly fill each hole as it passes through? (Answers are in Appendix 1.)

For Percy Spencer at Raytheon, seeing a connec- tion between the heat of a neon tube and the heat required to cook food was the creative connection that led to his breakthrough in the microwave industry. One of Spencer’s colleagues recalled: “In the process of testing a bulb [with a magnetron], your hands got hot. I don’t know when Percy really came up with the thought of microwave ovens, but he knew at that time—and that was 1942. He [remarked] frequently that this would be a good device for cooking food.” Another colleague described Spencer this way: “The way Percy Spencer’s mind worked is an interesting thing. He had a mind that allowed him to hold an extraordinary array of associations on phenomena and relate them to one another” (Nayak & Ketteringham, 1986: 184, 205). Similarly, the connection Art Fry made between a glue that wouldn’t stick tightly and marking hymns in a choir book was the final break- through that led to the development of the revolution- ary Post-It Note business.


Conceptual blocks also occur as a result of compression of ideas. Looking too narrowly at a problem, screening out too much relevant data, and making assumptions that inhibit problem solution are common examples. Two especially cogent examples of compression are artificially constraining problems and not distinguishing figure from ground.

Artificial Constraints

Sometimes people place boundaries around problems, or constrain their approach to them, in such a way that the problems become impossible to solve. Such con- straints arise from hidden assumptions people make about problems they encounter. People assume that some problem definitions or alternative solutions are



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