Three Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Steven Gillman

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Lateral thinking - what is it? The word was invented by Edward DeBono in 1967. Somewhere along the way it became a part of the English language (it's in the Oxford English Dictionary and others now). DeBono 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 the latter, where logic normally suffices - because the pieces are a given. 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.

Lateral Thinking - Three Puzzles

Enough with the definitions. try these three lateral thinking puzzles instead. They'll give you a feel for what the term means, and let you practice this “out of the box" thinking.

Choosing The Coin

Bill is on a raft, adrift in the ocean with several survivors of a shipwreck. All but one of the others are too weak, so either he or Frank will swim to a nearby island to look for help. Unfortunately, it is almost certainly suicidal, due to the circling sharks, but they have little else to hope for.

Frank puts two pennies in a hat, telling Bill that one is a 2005 penny, and the other dated 1975. If Bill picks the newer penny he can stay on the raft, and Frank will risk his life. If he picks the older penny, he must go. Bill has seen that both pennies are actually dated 1975. He doesn't want to say anything, because Frank is a big guy, so how does he win, and get Mike to go, without exposing him as a fraud in front of the others?

The Superior Mother

A man visited a convent while the superior mother was out of town. Before she returned, he left, and was careful to leave nothing behind. The nuns kept quiet about his visit, so how did the superior mother figure out that a man had been there?

Switching On Your Lateral Thinking

Outside a closed room there are three switches on the wall. Inside the room, there are three lamps. Flip the switches as much as you want while the door is closed, but then you must enter the room just once and determine which switch is connected to which lamp. How will you do it?

There are very logical answers to all three of these lateral thinking puzzles. The way to arrive at them, however, may be less logical and more creative. Have fun!

Copyright Steve Gillman. For the solutions to these Lateral Thinking Puzzles , and to get the Brain Power Newsletter and other free gifts, visit:


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