Analyse the following two situations and their outcomes:
Somewhere in a jungle:
A king and his minister were caught by cannibals in a deep forest. To put them in an embarrassing position, the over- intelligent cannibal chief said, “Choice is yours. Make a true statement and we fry you. For a false statement, we boil you.”
The minister said, “You will boil us”. The confused leader could do nothing except leaving them. And that is intelligence!
Another scene from another jungle:
Three men were captured by cannibals in a jungle but were given a chance to live. They were buried up to their necks one after the other and were shown four hats – two black and two white. One hat was kept on each man’s head and the last one was hidden.
They were told that if just one of them could guess the colour of his hat, all could go free. After a few seconds of silence, in the middle one said, “Mine is a white hat.”
How did he say that?
The logic here is very simple. If the last man saw two black hats in front of him, he would have immediately said: “Mine is white.” His silence denotes that he was seeing two different colours. The middle one saw a black hat before him and concluded that his hat is white.
What you just read is a creative way of looking at solutions for problems. This is nothing but lateral thinking. Thinking out of the box or giving creative solutions or even viewing things from an unusual angle requires a creative bent of thinking.
At times step by step logic does apply while problem-solving. But if you reach a dead end, it makes a good sense to think laterally, because the solution is right in front of you! You just need to view it from a different angle.
Lateral thinking is a skill that can be mastered, just as you master the skill of mathematics. This skill is highly valuable. When students finish their colleges and enter into their professional lives, this skill is something that makes them stand out. In many creative industries such as media and publishing and professions like Law, Management, Retail, Consultancy and Informational Technology, this skill of lateral thinking carries a great deal of value. Employers look out for people who display this skill as this helps a company grow and move forward.
Lateral thinking tools
There are four main categories of Lateral thinking tools, as given by Edward de Bono, who developed this concept. These are:
- Idea-generating tools – which break free your current thinking patterns from their usual pathways.
- Focus tools – which open your mind to new possibilities in the search for new ideas.
- Harvest tools – which help maximize value is received from the idea generating output
- Treatment tools – that ground the creativity process by making the wild ideas and make them fit the real world constraints, resources, and support.
Lateral thinking – When to use:
Some of the possible areas or situations where you can apply lateral thinking are:
- When you are trying to solve problems.
- When you are trying to innovate
- When you are looking at alternative ways/ or even new ways
- When you are trying to invent something new
Lateral thinking quiz
Here is a small lateral thinking quiz. Test your skills by finding the solutions!
- A man built a rectangular house, each side having a southern view. He spotted a bear. What colour was the bear?
- What can you put in a wooden box that would make it lighter? The more of them you put in the lighter it becomes, yet the box stays empty.
- How many birthdays does a typical woman have?
- Why do Chinese men eat more rice than Japanese men?
- A woman lives on the tenth floor of a block of flats. Every morning she takes the lift down to the ground floor and goes to work. In the evening, she gets into the lift, and, if there is someone else in the lift she goes back to her floor directly. Otherwise, she goes to the eighth floor and walks up two flights of stairs to her flat. How do you explain this?
- Three switches outside a windowless room are connected to three light bulbs inside the room. How can you determine which switch is connected to which bulb if you are only allowed to enter the room once?
- John’s mother has 3 children, one is named April, one is named May. What is the third one named?
- A farmer in Somerset owns a beautiful pear tree. He supplies the fruit to a nearby grocery store. The store owner has called the farmer to see how much fruit is available for him to purchase. The farmer knows that the main trunk has 24 branches. Each branch has exactly 12 boughs and each bough has exactly 6 twigs. Since each twig bears one piece of fruit, how many plums will the farmer be able to deliver?
- Name three consecutive days in English without using the words Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday?
- Two girls are born to the same mother, on the same day, at the same time, in the same year and yet they’re not twins. How can this be?
- Only at the North Pole can all four walls be facing south.
- There are more Chinese men than Japanese men.
- The woman is of small stature and couldn’t reach the upper lift
- Switch on the first switch, leave it for a minute, and then switch it off again. Then switch on the second switch and enter the room. The second switch will be connected to the light that is on, the first switch will be connected to the light with the warm bulb, and the third switch will be connected to the light with the cold bulb.
- None. It is not a plum tree.
- Yesterday, today and tomorrow.
- They are triplets.