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Lateral Thinking

The term lateral thinking was coined by Edward De Bono. Lateral thinking is about thinking ‘out of the box’. It is about ideas that might not be obtainable by step-by-step logic. There are four critical factors linked with it. They are:

1.     Recognize dominant ideas that polarize perception of a problem

2.     Searching for different ways of looking at things,

3.     Relaxation of rigid control of thinking

4.     Use of chance to encourage other ideas.

This last factor has to do with the fact that lateral thinking involves low-probability ideas which are unlikely to occur in the normal course of events.

Here is one example: A merchant who owes money to a money lender agrees to settle the debt based upon the choice of two stones (one black, one white) from a money bag. If his daughter chooses the white stone, the debt is canceled; if she picks the black stone, the moneylender gets the merchant's daughter. However, the moneylender "fixes" the outcome by putting two black stones in the bag. The daughter sees this and when she picks a stone out of the bag, immediately drops it onto the path full of other stones. She then points out that the stone she picked must have been the opposite color of the one remaining in the bag. Unwilling to be unveiled as dishonest, the moneylender must agree and cancel the debt. The daughter has solved a difficult problem through the use of lateral thinking.


Another example is: In 2004, the organizing committee for 2007’s NDP in Singapore was asked to build a stadium to hold it because the National Stadium was going to be torn down. The location was to be at Marina Bay. Most people thought that they would build a stadium. Realising that a key feature of Marina Bay was the bay and the water itself, they decided after much discussion to build the floating platform instead. This example shows us how normal people like us can get ideas unlike that of others. It shows us that anyone can think pout of the box.

Now I have got some riddles for you:

1.     A man is wearing black. Black shoes, socks, trousers, coat, gloves and ski mask. He is walking down a back street with all the street lamps off. A black car is coming towards him with its light off but somehow manages to stop in time. How did the driver see the man?

2.     A woman shoots her husband. Then she holds him under water for over 5 minutes. Finally, she hangs him. But 5 minutes later they both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner together. How can this be?

4.     A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of assassins with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that haven't eaten in 3 years. Which room is safest for him?


1.     It was day time.

2.     The woman was a photographer. She shot a picture of her husband, developed it, and hung it up to dry.

3.     The third room. The lions had not eaten for three years and were dead.