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What Is Lateral Thinking?

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A definition or two of lateral thinking and a few lateral thinking

lateral thinking, puzzles, brainpower

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What exactly is Lateral thinking? For starters, it's a word invented by
Edward DeBono in 1967. At some point since then it became a part of the
English language (it is in the Oxford English Dictionary and most others
now). DeBono, on his official web site, says there are several ways to
define it.

Lateral thinking is a way of attacking problems from other angles, as
opposed to the more traditional linear and logical ways. Debono uses
chess as an example of where logic normally suffices, if the pieces are a
given. Lateral thinking, however, acknowledges that in real life we
mostly just assume the pieces are given, when really we need to change
those pieces or look beyond them for the most useful solutions.

<b>Lateral Thinking Puzzles</b>

Enough with the definitions. Here are a few lateral thinking puzzles
instead. These will give you a good feel for what the term means, and let
you practice this "out of the box" kind of thinking.

<b>Two Coins</b>

Bill is on a raft in the ocean with several other survivors of a
shipwreck. The others are too weak, so he or Mike must swim to a nearby
island to look for help. It's almost certainly suicidal, due to the
circling sharks, but there is little else to hope for. Mike takes the
lose change from his pocket and puts two pennies in a hat. He tells John
that one is a 2005 penny, and the other 1975. If Bill picks the newer
penny he can stay on the raft, and Mike will risk his life. If John picks
the older penny, he must go. Bill has seen that both pennies were
actually dated 1975, but he doesn't want to say anything, because Mike is
a big guy. How does he win, and get Mike to go, without exposing him as a
fraud in front of the others?

<b>The Speech</b>

A well-known politician wrote a long speech. How did it help his career
even before he gave the speech?
<b>The Convent</b>

John came to visit at a convent while the superior mother was out of
town. He left before she returned, and was careful to leave nothing
behind. The nuns said nothing about his visit, so how did the superior
mother figure out that a man had been there?

<b>Switching On Your Lateral Thinking</b>

You are shown three switches outside a closed room. There are three lamps
inside the room. You can flip the switches on and off as much as you want
while the door remains closed, but then you must enter just once and
determine quickly which switch is connected to which lamp. How can you do

<b>Solutions To The Lateral Thinking Puzzles</b>

Two Coins: Bill reaches into the hat and takes out either penny. He lets
it slip out of his hand and fall into the ocean. Apologizing, he suggests
that if the remaining penny in the hat is the 1975 one, he must have
drawn the 2005 penny. Mike cannot argue with the logic unless he wants to
admit to lying. Since the others won't tolerate a liar anyhow, he makes
the swim.

The Speech: A true story solution: In 1912, President Teddy Roosevelt was
shot in the chest. The folded-up manuscript of his speech was in his
breast pocket, and slowed the bullet, saving his life, and so helping his

The Convent: John left a toilet seat up.

Switching On Your Lateral Thinking: Turn on the first one on for a
minute, then turn it off and turn the second on. Enter the room and feel
the two bulbs that are off. The warm one was turned on by the first
switch, the light that is on is connected to the second, and the other to
the third.