When the Israeli commanders wanted to move tanks into enemy territory, one commander decided to enter at a certain spot that was already marked on the map as “impossible”.
He did that because he realized that the verdict of impossible was given when evaluating the chances of a platoon (4 tanks) to succeed. But moving them 1-2 at a time was possible.
You may know this riddle: imagine a cake. Now cut it into 8 geometrically identical pieces with one straight knife and only 3 cuts. (I give two solutions at the bottom of this post.)
In both situations, the solution to the problem is arrived at by taking existing knowledge and questioning assumptions. This process creates a new point of view - a solution.
The military commander used the attributes of the terrain (existing knowledge) and (the wrong assumption) that it’s necessary to move tanks one platoon at a time, to create a new solution.
Do you see the existing knowledge and the wrong assumption that makes this riddle?
(There are two wrong assumptions, each when discovered, will lead to a different solution.)
This is the essence of lateral thinking. Many view lateral thinking as an unknown intuitive process, but I think the following two are knowable and useful for achieving the desired result:
- Question assumptions
- Discover existing disregarded or looked-over knowledge
Both can be hard to perform, but being aware of them is a huge step forward to using them explicitly and the faster and better way to find the right solution - the right idea.
Try this now on a difficult problem you are having.
- Cut once vertically, halving the cake, then again perpendicularly to create 4 quarters. Now slice horizontally and you’ll have 8 geometrically similar slices.
- The first two cuts are the same as in the previous solution. Then you stack the pieces on top of each other and cut vertically again.
I would appreciate your anonymous feedback. What did you find interesting?
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