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Lateral thinking puzzles: Change your perspective

Lateral thinking puzzles: Change your perspective

Another puzzle in this series to test your lateral thinking skills! Paul Sloane shares a brainteaser designed to make you change your perspective

Have you ever been in a wood that looked like a jumble of trees and then when you took a few steps to the side you saw that all the trees were laid out in neat rows? Sometimes we are standing in the wrong place to see an obvious answer. We have to deliberately take a different point of view and come at the problem from a new direction before we have a chance of creating a radical solution.

Forest

Sometimes you need to take a step back and see the bigger picture

Try this little lateral thinking puzzle. A man uses a stick to strike part of an elephant and after a couple of seconds it disappears. The man is then a lot richer. Why?

Taking a different point of view

Albert Szent-Gyorgy, who discovered Vitamin C, said, “Genius is seeing what everyone else sees and thinking what no-one else has thought.” If you can survey a situation from a different viewpoint, then you have a good chance of gaining a new insight.

Add together these numbers in your head: 398, 395, 396, 399. If you add them the conventional way then it is taxing piece of mental arithmetic. But if you notice that they can be rewritten as 400-2, 400-5, 400-4 and 400-1 then it is easy to see the total is 1600 - 12 = 1588. By taking a slightly different view of the problem or restating it in a different way it becomes much easier to solve.

"If you can survey a situation from a different viewpoint, you have a good chance of gaining a new insight"

How can we force ourselves to take a different view of a situation? Instead of looking at the scene from your view try looking at it from the perspective of a child, an artist, a criminal, a comedian, a dancer, or an architect. Think of a clear-cut celebrity. How would Lady Gaga or Elon Musk or Leonardo da Vinci or Margaret Thatcher approach this problem?

Some of the great lateral thinkers

The great guru of lateral thinking was Edward de Bono. Ford Motor Corporation asked him how they could compete more effectively against other car makers. Ford approached the problem from the point of view of an automobile engineer and focused on the performance and design of the car. They worried about things like acceleration, dashboard layout and power to weight ratios.  

Edward de Bono

De Bono approached the problem from the perspective of a busy motorist who just wants to get to their destination and park there. His advice was that Ford should buy up car parks in all the major city centres and make them available for Ford cars only. His remarkable idea was too radical for Ford who saw themselves as an automobile manufacturer with no interest in the car parks business.

"If we can come at problems from entirely new directions, then we have unlimited possibilities"

The great innovators did not take the traditional view and develop existing ideas. They took an entirely different view and transformed society. Picasso took a different view of painting, Einstein imagined a new approach to physics, Darwin conceived a different view of creation. Each of them looked at the world in a new way. In similar fashion Jeff Bezos took a different view of book retailing with Amazon.com, Stelios took a new perspective on flying with Easyjet, Swatch transformed our view of watches and IKEA changed the way we buy furniture. If we can come at problems from entirely new directions, then we have unlimited possibilities for creative and interesting ideas.

The answer to the puzzle  

The man was playing snooker. He potted the ball (made of ivory) with his cue and won the tournament.

Paul Sloane is a leading speaker and best-selling author of lateral thinking and innovation books, with his new book Lateral Thinking for Every Day available to purchase now (Kogan Page, £12.99)

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