We named lateral thinking a reasoning mode, used to solve a problem in an imaginative and creative way.
It is a pattern of thinking that takes advantage of techniques other than those used by the logic reasoning (vertical thinking), giving unusual perspectives in the face of any situation. The term comes from English Lateral thinking and was used for the first time in 1967.
This method is based on four main reasoning perspectives:
- Check the assumptions. This is what is commonly called “keeping an open mind”, that is, distrusting the values, prejudices and reasoning prior to the individual approach to the problem, as they are common places that often pigeonhole thinking and limit creative ideas.
- Ask the right questions. Instead of focusing on the solution, lateral thinking first seeks to find the right questions, to know what kind of answer is being sought. This is often understood as a reverse perspective: think the question and not the solution.
- Go to creativity. Lateral thinking values change and the original perspective of problems, so creativity is one of its main allies.
- Think logically. The logical deduction, the rigor of thought and the capacity for interpretation are also part of the nucleus of lateral thinking, which will not be despised because it is creative, nor should it turn its back on discipline and rational operations.
Examples of lateral thinking
Although it is difficult to find concrete examples of a way of thinking, it is possible to list a series of problems whose resolution requires lateral thinking:
- The case of the two-seater boat. A man who lives on an island needs to move his belongings to another that is opposite. The man has a fox, a rabbit, and a bunch of carrots, but he can carry only one of the three items in his boat at a time. How can you manage to take it all in turns, without the fox noticing the rabbit and the rabbit noticing the carrots?
- Two chess players. Two excellent chess players played five games in one day, each winning three. How is that possible?
- The balloon paradox. How can a balloon be punctured without the air leaking and the balloon bursting?
- The elevator man. A man lives on the 10th floor of a building. Every day take the elevator and go down to the ground floor to go to lunch in the restaurant opposite. When returning, he always takes the same elevator, and if there is no one with him, he goes down to the seventh floor and goes up the remaining floors by stairs. Why does he do it like this?
- The client of the bar. A man walks into a bar and asks for a glass of water at the bar. The bartender, without hesitation, looks for something under the bar and suddenly points a gun at him. The man thanks and leaves. What just happened?
- The death of Antony and Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra lie dead on the floor of the room. She’s red, him orange. There is broken glass on the floor and a dog as the only witness. There is no mark on the bodies and neither did they die of poisoning. How did they die then?
- The coal, the carrot and the hat. Five pieces of charcoal, a whole carrot and a fancy hat are lying in the garden. Nobody has lost them and they have the same time on the grass. How did they get there then?
- The case of Adam and Eve. Anyone who dies and goes to heaven. Among so many strangers, he immediately recognizes a couple: Adam and Eve. How do you recognize them?
- The man in the car. A man drags his car to a stop in front of a hotel. Then you find out that you are bankrupt. How do you know?
- The topic of pregnancy. A woman in labor gives birth to two children at the same time on the same day of the same year, but they were not twins. How is that possible?
- Hangman. They discover in his apartment a hanged man, hanging from a central beam with his feet twelve inches high. They estimate he’s been dead for a couple of days. But there are no chairs, no tables around, no surfaces that you could climb on, just a load of water at your feet. How could he hang himself then?
- The unexpected animal. There is an animal that has its paws on its head all the time. What is that animal?
- The riddle of the colander. How can it be done to transport water from one container to another using a strainer?
- The hole. How much dirt is in a hole one meter long by one meter wide and one meter deep?
- The ring and the coffee. A woman drops her engagement ring in coffee. Upon rescuing it, she realizes that not only has it not been stained, but it is not even wet. How is that possible?
- The Five Travelers in the Rain. Five men advance through a lonely field, when it starts to rain heavily. They all start running except for one, who is unperturbed and yet does not get wet. In the end, they all arrive together at their destination. How is it possible?
- The riddle of the monk. An apprentice monk is tasked with bringing exactly six liters of water from the fountain in the middle of the temple. To do this, they give it a four-liter container and another with a seven-liter capacity. You cannot get help from anyone. How can you do it?
- Barbers. It is said that the barbers of a town in Spain prefer to cut the hair of ten fat men rather than a single skinny one. Why do they prefer it that way?
- The riddle of the journey. In 1930 two men drove in a Ford automobile from New York City to Los Angeles. The 5,375-kilometer journey lasted 18 days and was neither the first, nor the fastest, nor the slowest in history. The roads were normal, so were the cars and drivers, but thanks to the journey these two men have an unbeatable world record. Which one?
- The hasty. A young man runs out of the house to see his girlfriend. He forgets his driver’s license on the nightstand, but he doesn’t look for it again. Cross a red traffic light and go the other way down one of the busiest avenues in the city. He is not stopped by the police, nor does he have an accident. How is that possible?
Solution to problems
- Answer 1: Move the rabbit first, because the fox is not going to eat the carrots. Then he takes it to this one and brings the rabbit back. Finally, he takes the carrots, leaves them in front, and returns later for the rabbit.
- Answer 2: They did not play against each other, but against other opponents.
- Answer 3: Must be punctured while deflated.
- Answer 4: The man is too short to press the button for the tenth floor.
- Answer 5: The bartender noticed his client’s hiccups, and decides to cure it by taking out his shotgun and giving him a good scare.
- Answer 6: Of suffocation, as they are two goldfish whose fishbowl the dog has accidentally knocked to the ground.
- Answer 7: They are the remains of a melted snowman.
- Answer 8: Realizes that they do not have a navel.
- Answer 9: The man was playing Monopoly.
- Answer 10: It was a triplet pregnancy, but one was born before the others.
- Answer 11: The man used a block of ice to climb. As the days passed, it melted.
- Answer 12: The louse, as it is always on someone’s hair.
- Answer 13: Freezing the water first.
- Answer 14: None, one hole is empty.
- Answer 15: It was a bag of ground coffee or beans.
- Answer 16: The four men carried one in a coffin.
- Answer 17: Fill the seven-liter container and empty it into the four-liter container until full. So you know there are three left in the larger container. Then return the four to the source and transfer the remaining three liters to the container of four. Fill the seven again and fill in the missing liter in the four container, which will leave exactly six liters in the larger container.
- Answer 18: Because they make ten times more money.
- Answer 19: The world record for the longest backward journey – Charles Creighton and James Hargis hold this record.
- Answer 20: The young man was not driving, he was walking.