The 9-dot puzzle of Resilience

We all may have attempted to solve the 9-dot puzzle, where a pencil is used to draw four continuous straight-line segments through the middle of all 9 dots without taking the pencil off the paper.

This exercise of 9 -dot puzzle is often incorporated in cognitive psychology to explain ‘unblocking the mind in problem-solving. It seems to have led to the expression of ‘thinking outside the box’. We often confine ourselves to the box and perceive that the lines must start from within the box. After multiple trials and errors, we may have realized that the trick is to extend the line segments outside the perceived box the 9-dots create.

Does this exercise translate to real-life problems and crisis situations? How do we perceive the solution to setbacks and challenges? Do we perceive them to be ‘within the box’, where conventional ideas and methods reside? OR are they ‘outside the box’, where there is a capability for creative problem solving and idea generation?

Well, according to researchers in the field of psychology, the solutions are outside the box. Bouncing back from challenges and setbacks is guided by our perception that we can find creative and alternative ways to solve problems, this further leads us to emerge as ‘Resilient.’

This perception& confidence of being capable of finding solutions is known as Ingenuity- measured by Resilience Questionnaire™. It goes beyond just solving a problem; it involves accurately identifying and defining the problem as well. This is one of the critical behavioural strategies resilient individuals use.

As humans, we have extensive experience in facing and overcoming setbacks and challenges. But does it mean that we are highly ingenious? probably not. The behaviours that a highly ingenious individual would display are:

  • Thinking beyond conventional and obvious solutions
  • Seeing opportunities that others may miss
  • Generating imaginative ideas to overcome challenges
  • Confidence in their ability to find a way.
  • Viewing multiple ways around the problem.

As with the 9-dot puzzle, it takes time to develop the skill, capability to see beyond the box. Likewise, ingenuity is a skill that can be developed overtime to define problems accurately and identify creative problem-solving methods.

Some ways to develop ingenuity are:

  • Recognizing that problem or crisis situation exists and approaching it head-on.
  • Accurately defining the problem by gathering information and evaluating the situation objectively.
  • Making appropriate attributions about who or what is responsible for the crisis or challenge.
  • Drawing options from previous experiences and thinking from different perspectives.
  • Applying decision making criteria to evaluate the options.
  • Demonstrating flexibility towards alternative approaches.

It is important to identify problems that require ingenuity. Sometimes brining in too much creativity to every problem we face leads to over-complicating or over-engineering the solution.

“If you remove adversity, you remove ingenuity and creativity with it. There is no need to strive to make something beautiful or better if it already is”.

  • Ilona Andrews, Magic Binds

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