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Lateral Thinking


Three switches outside a windowless room are connected to three light bulbs inside the room. ... first switch and the on-bulb is connected to the second switch. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Lateral Thinking

Lateral Thinking
  • By M. Allen Firester on behalf of IS68 Mr.
    Fralin, principal.

Italian Workman Wants a Job
  • An Italian workman wants a job, but the foreman
    won't hire him until he passes a little math
  • 'Here's your first question,' the foreman said.
    'Without using numbers, represent the number 9.'
  •  'Withouta numbers?' the Italian says, 'Datsa
    easy.' and he proceeds to draw three trees.
  •  'What's this?' the boss asks.
  •  'Ave you gota no brain? Tree and tree and tree
    makes a nine,' says the Italian.

  •  'Fair enough,' says the boss. 'Here's your
    second question. Use the same rules, but this
    time the number is 99.'
  •  The Italian stares into space for a while, then
    picks up the picture that he has just drawn and
    makes a smudge on each tree . 'Ere you go.'
  •  The boss scratches his head and says, 'How on
    earth do you get that to represent 99?'
  •  'Eacha of da trees is a dirty now.  So, it's
    dirty tree, and dirty tree, and dirty tree. Datsa
    a 99.'

  • The boss is getting worried that he's going to
    actually have to hire this Italian, so he says,
    'All right, last question.
  • Same rules again, but represent the number 100.'
  •  The Italian stares into space some more, then he
    picks up the picture again and makes a little
    mark at the base of each tree and says, 'Ere you
    go.  One hundred.'

  • The boss looks at the attempt. 'You must be nuts
    if you think that represents a hundred!'
  •  (You're going to love this one!!!)
  •  The Italian leans forward and points to the
    marks at the base of each tree and says, 'A
    little doga come along and shita by eacha tree.
     So now you gota dirty tree and a turd, dirty
    tree and a turd, and dirty tree and a turd,
    data makea one hundred.  So, whenna I start?

Historical perspective
  • Though fictional the following demonstrates the
    power of lateral thinking Witness the success
    of the cadet James T. Kirk (Later Enterprise
    Captain) in star fleet academy
  • Kirk had the distinction of being the only cadet
    ever to beat the "no-win" Kobayashi Maru
    scenario he had secretly reprogrammed the
    simulation computer, making it possible to win
    and earning himself a commendation for original
    thinking. When asked how he was able to win
    against this no-win situation, he said, I
    changed the rules.

  • Gauss showed indications of mathematical genius
    very early. His teacher gave the students an
    assignment to add up a series of 100 numbers.
    Instantly, Gauss said that he had completed the
    exercise (the story goes that he had figured that
    100 numbers could be determined by the equation
    n(ab)(1/2)50(ab) where n100, a the first
    digit in the sequence and b the last digit in
    the sequence.)

Let me show you how he did it.
  • Suppose you wanted to sum up
  • 5 6 7 8
  • Notice that 5 8 13 Also 5 6 13. There
    are 2 pairs of 13. 13 x 2 26.
  • Would this be any different for the sum of
    the digits 1 to 10? What is the sum? How many
    pairs? What is the total?

Is this just deductive or inductive reasoning?
  • Or was he thinking outside the box?

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  • Years ago everyone wanted to know why Chemical
    Bank was able to reconcile almost all of their
    accounts at the end of the day and avoid massive
    write-offs to their suspension account (saving
    millions). The answer was that at 300 pm daily,
    all of the people involved brought their coffee
    to the conference room for a brainstorming
    session. They found matches where there appeared
    to be none. This was the first instance I had
    seen first-hand of the power of lateral thinking.

  • As Einstein reminds us, Problems cannot be
    solved by thinking within the framework in which
    they were created.
  • He was, of course, alluding to problems that are
    unusual in nature or plaguing to society.
  • There are many instances of scientists or social
    scientists who have had breakthroughs due to
    creative thinking.

De Bono identifies four critical factors
associated with lateral thinking
  • recognize dominant ideas that polarize the
    perception of a problem
  • Searching for different ways of looking at things
  • relaxation of rigid control of thinking and
  • use of chance to encourage other ideas.

Lateral thinking is our edge in the global
  • Dr. Charles Prather (Keynote speaker)
  • http//
  • http//
  • http//
  • Talks of Agents of change vs agents of

The rules for lateral thinking are that there are
no rules.
Lateral thinking
  • Is actually a form of divergent thinking, which
    is also known as creative thinking.
  • Supports higher level cognitive skills like
  • predicting, hypothesizing, inferring, or
  • In problem solving the use of lateral thinking is
    often followed by convergent thinking that allows
    us to summarize our findings.

Lateral thinking supports
  • The workshop model
  • Accountable talk
  • Critical thinking
  • Process skills

  • A. A. MILNE
  • One of the advantages of being disorderly is that
    one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
  • Creativity is a type of learning process where
    the teacher and pupil are located in the same
  • Thank goodness I never went to school it would
    have rubbed off some of the originality.
  • When I am working on a problem I never think
    about beauty. I only think about how to solve the
    problem. But when I have finished, if the
    solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
  • It is better to have enough ideas for some of
    them to be wrong, than to be always right by
    having no ideas at all.
  • Human salvation lies in the hands of the
    creatively maladjusted.

Lateral thinking can start with what is already
  • Visualizations, and pattern recognition may at
    times lead to intuitive inspiration.
  • At some point, though, you need to step back to
    look at alternatives. (Could be a function of PO)
  • Lateral thinking involves pattern-breaking,
    thinking outside the box and creative ways of
    looking at the situation.
  • Sometimes a new method or new solution becomes
    apparent that is more efficient than the obvious.

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  • Divergent----gt Many possible answers

Here is an exercise in lateral thinking
  • 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 may enter the room only
  • Ill give you some time to discuss this with your

Possible Solution
  • Switch one light on for a minute turn it off and
    turn on another one.
  • Go into the room and feel the off-bulbs.
  • The warm one is connected to the first switch and
    the on-bulb is connected to the second switch.

Another one
  • A man is hanging from a rope in a locked room.
    Below him is a puddle of water. How did he hang
  • Do you need some clues?

  • There is no furniture. When he hung himself, the
    puddle was not there...
  • Think about it with your group.

Possible solution
  • The puddle is all that is left of a large block
    of ice. The man stood on this in order to hang

Here is a math problem--
  • How can you divide 11 horses so that 1 person
    gets ½, another gets ¼ and the last person gets

Possible solution--
  • You can add a horse from your own stock. Then
    give the first person 6 horses, the second 3
    horses and the third 2 horses. That makes 11
    horses that are given out.
  • You can now take your horse back.
  • Is there anything wrong with this thinking?
  • Does it solve the problem, though?

  • How could you divide a square into 4 equal
    pieces? Think of all the possibilities.
  • Materials supplied Square paper, pencils,
    rulers and scissors.
  • Use the paper supplied to test your solutions.

Did you consider any of these?
Definition Lateral Thinking (from Infinite
Innovations Ltd)
  • Similar to Creative Thinking (also called
    divergent thinking). Seeking to solve problems
    by unorthodox or apparently illogical methods.
  • "A set of systematic techniques used for changing
    concepts and perceptions and generating new ones
  • "Exploring multiple possibilities and approaches
    instead of pursuing a single approach." (Edward
    de Bono, originator of the phrase)

Why isnt critical thinking a form of lateral
  • Critical thinking is primarily concerned with
    judging the truth value of statements and seeking
    errors. Lateral thinking is more concerned with
    the movement value of statements and ideas. A
    person would use lateral thinking when they want
    to move from one known idea to creating new
    ideas. It can also be put as, critical thinking
    is like a post-mortem while lateral thinking is
    like diagnosis.

When starting a new unit--
  • If you ask many tantalizing and divergent
    questions in your classroom, your students are
    likely to model after your behavior for example,
    "What would have happened if Lincoln was shot in
    the first month of the war? Why did Lincoln only
    free the slaves in the rebel states? How did it
    feel to be a woman in the path of Sherman's army?"

Increasing wait time increases the probability
that students will think creatively
  • Research into wait-time for American classrooms
    paints a distressing picture. Many teachers wait
    less than two seconds for the answer to each
    question and ask hundreds of questions per hour.
    These types of questions are generally recall
    questions demanding little thought.

Lateral Thinking often begins with brainstorming
  • The four rules of brainstorming
  • 1. all contributions are accepted without
  • 2. the goal is a large number of ideas or
  • 3. building on other people's ideas is
  • 4. Far-out, unusual ideas are encouraged.

Try visual brainstorming
  • In the 1500s, Leonardo da Vinci employed both
    drawings and words to describe his incredible
    ideas and inventions. By using sketches with
    captions, his concepts became clear, exciting
    graphic presentations. And we think Lenny had it

Leonardo da Vinci's concept for a helicopterused
both his inventive sketch and descriptive words.
In modern business this has led to blamestorming
  • Where a group of people gather to discuss what
    went wrong and who is to blame for a project's
    failure. Similar to the brainstorming rules,
    blamestorming requires vast flows of wild and
    exaggerated ideas with an initial emphasis on
    quantity rather than quality.

  • It's also legitimate that blame given by one
    participant can be built on by others. However,
    unlike brainstorming, blamestorming requires
    total criticism and judgment of ideas, and an
    idea's worth is dependent on the management level
    of the person giving it.

Other methods for divergent thinking
  • Breaking components into sections for
    modular analysis
  • Keeping a journal
  • Freewriting
  • Mind and subject mapping

Divergent thinking questions begin with these
words or phrases
  • Imagine...
  • Suppose...
  • Predict...
  • If..., then...
  • How might...
  • Can you create...
  • What are some possible consequences...

Examples of divergent thinking questions
  • Can you imagine ways that soccer typifies
    Mexican culture?Suppose that Caesar never
    returned to Rome from Gaul. Would the Empire have
    existed?What predictions can you make regarding
    the budget deficit if McCain had won?How might
    life in the year 2100 differ from today?The
    computer corrects spelling. Is it then
    unnecessary for third graders to take spelling

Other possible activities
  • Students will create a salad to go with the
    reading of one of the Walter Dean Mayers novels.
    What salad would be appropriate and why? (does
    anyone think of macaroni salad or potato salad?)
  • What kind of rock would be best for construction
    and why? What makes concrete so durable?

  • If I were an animal that could possibly survive
    on Mars, what animal would I be and why?
  • Why walls are a great way to allow students the
    latitude for exploring new concepts.
  • We need to take historical events and relate them
    to todays problems (How can we solve our
    immigration problem today?)

Some of these connections might at first seem
silly but students need to be freed from the
ordinary in order to examine the extraordinary.
It is precisely for this reason that DeBono
devised the use PO
PO is a method by which you introduce
  • Random Entry
  • Provocation
  • Challenge

  • Random Entry Choose an object at random, or a
    noun from a dictionary, and associate that with
    the area you are thinking about.

  • For example imagine you are thinking about how to
    improve Wikipedia. Choosing an object at random
    from an office you might see a fax machine. A fax
    machine transmits images over the phone to paper.
    Fax machines are becoming rare. People send faxes
    directly to known phone numbers. Perhaps this
    makes you think of providing ways to embed wiki
    articles in emails and other websites, as is done
    with youtube videos. Does it stimulate other
    Wikipedia ideas for you?

  • Provocation Declare the usual perception out of
    bounds, or provide some provocative alternative
    to the usual situation under consideration.
    Prefix the provocation with the term 'Po" to
    signal that the provocation is not a valid idea
    put up for judgment but a stimulus for new

  • Consider the statement PO -Cars should have
    square wheels." When considered with critical
    thinking, this would be evaluated as a poor
    suggestion and dismissed as impractical.

  • The lateral thinking treatment of the same
    statement would be to speculate where it leads.
  • Humor is taken intentionally with lateral
    thinking. A person would imagine "as if" this
    were the case, and describe the effects or

  • Someone might observe square wheels would
    produce very predictable bumps. If bumps can be
    predicted, then suspension can be designed to
  • This leads to the idea of active suspension. A
    sensor connected to suspension could examine the
    road surface ahead on cars with round wheels too.
    A car could have a sensor for determining when it
    was going to hit a bump that feeds back to
    suspension that would know to compensate.

  • The initial "provocative" statement has been left
    behind, but it has also been used to indirectly
    generate the new and potentially more useful

Here is another example
  • PO Suppose we could control the way traffic
    lights change?
  • Actually, this is being tested now in New York
    with special bus routes that have sensors to keep
    the lights green till the bus passes.
  • In Charlotte, NC, the lights count down from 60
    seconds to let you know how long you have before
    the traffic flows.

  • Challenge Simply challenge the way things have
    always been done or seen, or the way they are.
  • This is done not to show there is anything wrong
    with the existing situation but simply to direct
    your perceptions to exploring outside the current

  • For example you could challenge coffee cups being
    produced with a handle. There is nothing wrong
    with coffee cups having handles so the challenge
    is a direction to explore without defending the
    status quo. The reason for the handle seems to be
    that the cup is often too hot to hold directly.
    Perhaps coffee cups could be made with insulated
    finger grips, or there could be separate coffee
    cup holders similar to beer holders.

Can milk containers be square?
  • Theyve just begun producing gallon milk
    containers that are square.
  • People dont like it or arent used to it but..
  • It saves a great deal of time and expense in
  • It is a more efficient way to package.
  • Someone was definitely thinking outside the box.

PO is used to alert people that you are about to
make a somewhat outrageous remark.PO can be used
  • Provocation or Challenge
  • Random Input
  • Escape

Po Provocation
  • Four basic ways to create a provocation

PO Provocation -examples
  • PO - The bathtub is only half full
  • PO - The traffic lights never change color
  • PO - The angles of a triangle dont total 180

PO Random Input
  • Our thinking target is Ambulances. We want new
    ideas on Ambulances.
  • I open the dictionary at random and stop at the
    first "noun thing word" that I find.
  • Firth Arm of sea estuary. OK that's it!
  • Po statement Ambulances po firth
  • If a firth is an arm of the sea that suggest
    something jutting out. Could there be a couple of
    bicycles strapped to the sides of ambulances to
    get into difficult spots?

Po Escape
  • With ESCAPE we are developing the habit of
    asking "Is it necessary to do things this way?
  • Example Credit cards po benefit.
  • This is a chosen statement rather than random
  • "Credit cards po benefit" means "instead of
    seeing or designing a credit card around the
    concept of 'benefit' how else might we do things?

Explorative readings
  • Teachers will read the Rosen Article and the
    Analysis Questions at the end. Which of these
    questions inspire critical thinking and which do
    you think might lead to creative or lateral
    thinking? Can you create another question that
    inspires creativity?
  • Teachers should practice using PO when discussing

Problem solving is not just for math
  • In design, a problem is any situation where you
    have an opportunity to make a difference, to make
    things better. 
  • Whenever you are thinking creatively and
    critically about ways to increase the quality of
    life (or to avoid a decrease in quality), you are
    actively involved in problem solving. 

How else can we use problem solving and lateral
  • Teaming
  • Interdisciplinary projects
  • Academy themes

Why do we need lateral thinking in America?
  • Edison said, Invention is 99 perspiration and
    1 inspiration.
  • What would happen to our society if we could
    increase inspiration to 25 of the mix?
  • Could we find a cure for cancer?
  • Could we create the first engine that will bring
    us to space exploration beyond our solar system?

How can we give more than 100?
  • If A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W
    X Y Z Is represented as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
    11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.
  • H-A-R-D-W-O- R- K 8118423 151811 98

  • K-N-O-W-L-E- D-G-E 11141523 12547 5
  • A-T-T-I-T-U- D-E 12020920 2145 100

But Thinking---
  • T-H-I-N-K-I-N-G
  • 20 8 9 14 11 9 14 7 92 and
    doing this laterally, critically, sequentially or
    even globally, puts you over 100