Fixedness - Norman Maier
Norman Maier, at the University of Michigan wanted to explore how different people solved problems. He attached two cords to the ceiling of his lab and asked students to tie the two ends together. What made it tricky was that the two cords were just far enough apart that, while holding on to one cord, you couldn’t reach the other.
To help participants in his experiment he placed items on a table that could help solve the problem. Where the item had functional attributes related to the problem – an extension cord and pole - they could easily solve the problem. When asked to solve the problem with items that had unrelated functions, such as a hammer, saw or even a paint brush, participants struggled to join the two ends of the cord.
Try the cord test for yourself
Take a length of string or cord, a little less than twice the height of the room. Fix the two ends to the ceiling, so that you can reach the middle point. Cut the cord in the middle so that both ends hang without touching the floor.
Now try connecting them again without any extra help. None at all.
Give up? The solution is in my book 'Solving the Right Problems with the Right Ideas', or send me an email on email@example.com if you think you have the right answer.
A great introduction to this unique new problem-led front-end of innovation technique. The book is also a complete DIY guide to running your own KN3W IDEAS workshop because it contains a complete set of the patent-pending KN3W IDEAS templates and tools, and a step-by-step classroom in a book tutorial – everything you need to start picking the right things to do – now!