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Solve Your Candle Problem With Maven Leadership

Updated on September 5, 2015

In 1945, psychologist Karl Duncker’s cognitive performance test – The Candle Problem – was published as a task designed to measure the influence of functional fixedness [rigid rules & regulations] on a participant’s problem solving capabilities.

The participant is provided with a table placed up against a wall, a candle, and a book of matches and a box of wall tacks. Using these items the participant is then asked to secure the candle to the wall, light it and ensure that none of the wax drops on the table below.

How would you proceed?

Before scrolling down -- see if you can come up with a solution to the candle problem.




On the surface this problem is packaged like many of the issues we face as leaders on a day to day basis: We are given a set of resources designed to solve a dated problem or designed to function in a manner that is not right-fitted to our specific needs. This consequently, leads most to believe that the problems that arise in a fast paced competitive work environment are insurmountable.

How do Maven Leaders turn limitations into opportunities?




By Thinking Outside of The Box

Maven Leaders understand how difficult it can be to view the box holding the tacks as anything more than what it was intentionally created for, but they also understand that progress comes from our ability to see the world differently: with 540 Degree Awareness we enable our perceptual recognition, which allows one to explore all of the available options -- both orthodox and unorthodox – and then Test for Success.

This approach keeps Maven Leaders focused on the big picture, opposed to obsessing over the details, issues or limitations we are confronted with on a daily basis. That is to say, it allows us to remove the tacks from the box in the early stages of addressing proverbial candle problems -- a decision that helps our teams focus on solving problems; and avoid Dying in The Fight.


Were you able to solve the Candle Problem without cheating?

See results

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