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.
Would you like Haim to help you?