You are a lateral thinker. In a few moments we're going to see just how good you really are!

Lateral thinking is reasoning. If successful, it results in an elegant solution to a seemingly impossible problem. The perfectly ingenious answer will seldom be reached using traditional step-by-step logic or pedantic thinking. Each of us has tapped into our genius from time to time to magically apply lateral thinking to a problem or personal conundrum. Lateral thinking, like any skill, can be greatly enhanced with a little practice and understanding.

Here are three examples of lateral thinking in action. Let’s see how you do?

There’s a popular story of a man who was imprisoned, who was well aware that his mail was thoroughly screened by the authorities. He and his wife corresponded on a regular basis. In one of her letters to him she wrote that she was going to begin planting the garden but she couldn’t operate the rotor-tiller. She said the ground was rock hard and without the machine it would be very difficult to turn the soil using just a spade.

In his reply the husband wrote, “Good God woman, don’t plant anything in the garden, that’s where I hid the money and the guns!”

Within a week or so the prisoner received another letter from his wife saying that a dozen police officers descended on the house and dug up the garden. “I don’t know what they were looking for, but they certainly didn’t find anything. By the way, she inquired, “What were they looking for?”

Can you see the ingenious solution the jailed husband applied to helping his wife?

The husband wrote back; “False alarm, nothing to worry about. Oh and by the way, I believe the garden should be ready for planting!”

That’s one example of Lateral Thinking!

Here’s Another.

A young peasant and a King’s daughter were in love and naturally the young man wanted to marry her. The King didn’t like the idea of his daughter marrying a peasant, but he wanted to appear fair in front of his subjects. The King announced to his court that he would put two pieces of paper into a hat, one reading EXILE and the other reading MARRIAGE, and the young peasant would draw one of the pieces of paper and be bound by the message it bore.

Later that day, the peasant overheard the King saying that both pieces of paper would read EXILE, thus ensuring that the poor popper would be banished forever. The peasant remained undaunted and, as arranged, arrived at the King’s court where a large crowd gathered for the event. The peasant then reached into the hat and drew out one of the pieces of paper. He then did something that assured him the hand of the King’s daughter. What did he do?

The solution to this perplexing problem requires lateral thinking. That is, non-linear thinking.

In lateral thinking the solution is often so elegant, so perfect it defies further speech. So what could this peasant have possibly done that would qualify as such a response?

Linear thinking might suggest;
• The peasant grab the daughter’s hand and make a run for it.
• Or perhaps the peasant could tell the entire court that he overheard the king say both pieces of paper would read EXILE.
• Perhaps he could plead with the king’s daughter to expose her father as a cheat.
• He might even try to choose both pieces of paper and suggest the king must have made an error.

Each of these solutions brings a whole host of accompanying problems, and certainly none of them would qualify as our “elegant and genius” description of lateral thinking.

Here’s a couple of hints to help you along.

Hint One - The young peasant knew that the King had to appear fair in front of his subjects and that he dare not expose him.

Hint Two - The peasant was clever enough to manipulate the paper he chose, get his wish, and still preserve the King’s integrity.

Can you guess what the peasant did?

The peasant picked one of the pieces of paper and tore it up. He then asked the King to show him the other piece of paper that of course, said EXILE. The King, not wishing to appear fraudulent in front of his subjects, was forced to grant that the piece of paper the peasant had picked must have said marriage.

The solution really is elegant don’t you think? The peasant and the king’s daughter fulfill their desires, while at the same time the peasant was careful to preserve the king’s integrity in front of his subjects. In fact, the king would quite likely begin to see his new son-in-law in a whole new light and quite likely one that was indeed worthy of his daughter’s hand.

Here’s one more example of Lateral Thinking!

This example hits closer to home (at least for me) because it's a true story that happened to a close friend.

Greg was a self-employed recruiter (read headhunter) for a number of fortune 500 companies. While driving down an LA freeway one day he was deep in thought as he turned over a particularly challenging problem. He had exhausted his Rolodex and had tapped into every contact he knew, but he just couldn’t seem to get any good-leads on the ‘man’ he needed to find.

About a week earlier one of his best customers, a large pharmaceutical firm, had asked him to find a person with the following characteristics – male, African American, age between twenty-five and thirty-five, University educated with at least a B.A. in science, and ideally, someone who was loaded with personality. As Greg was turning the problem over for the hundredth time, he was quickly brought back to reality when he realized his car was sputtering and out of gas.

He pulled over to the side of the road and was about to call road-side service when a fellow motorist pulled over and offered to help. This guy just happened to be African American who appeared to be about 30 years old. As it turned out, Greg accepted a ride to the nearest service station. During the ride the young man mentioned that he worked in the area and was just heading back to the office from his lunch break. When they reached the service station Greg got out and thanked the kind Samaritan for his trouble.

The young man no sooner drove away when Greg realized he had forgot to ask his name or where he worked. Then it hit him. He was suddenly struck with that wonderfully exquisite “AHA” of Lateral Thinking and the brilliantly simple solution to his problem.

Later that day Greg pulled into the parking lot of a competing corporation to the one he was trying to recruit for.

Greg went in to see the receptionist and explained that he was just given some very kind assistance by a passing motorist. “The good Samaritan told me his name and for the life of me I can’t seem to remember it. The only thing I remember was where he worked. I would really like to give him a small gift as a thank you token, but I just don’t recall his name.”

Well of course the receptionist was only too pleased to help but she confessed that they employed welll over a thousand people and it was quite likely she wouldn’t know who this person was. Well Greg replied; “I believe he was African-American, between 25 and 35, real friendly and outgoing and he spoke like someone who was very well educated.”

The secretary was pleased to say that she knew several people that would fit that description. “Let me think for a moment” she said, “Was it George so and so?” she asked.
“No”, Greg replied, making a mental note of the name, “I don’t think it was him.”
“Well how about Jason so and so?”
“No, that doesn’t ring a bell either,” said Greg making a further mental note of the name.
She thought for a another moment and then said that it had to be either Bill so and so or Randy so and so!”
Well Greg said he thought that it was most likely Randy. Greg thanked the receptionist for her help and he was on his way.

Within a week Greg had conducted a telephone interview with all four names the receptionist had given him and from them he recruited his man.

THAT to is lateral thinking!

Author's Bio: 

Richard Fast, the author and creator of more than 30 toys, games, puzzles and books, has devoted the past twenty years into the research and development of his 29 DAYS template.

He, like the rest of us, had always been told that if you want to change your life just change your thoughts. But how can we change the way we think?

Richard discovered that we can change our fundamental thoughts into desirable new habits by following the same cognitive procedures that we used to create our existing habits.

Richard’s 29 DAYS template for change uses proven, scientific techniques, technology and online coaching, to guide you through a step-by-step process toward changing your thoughts and acquiring desirable new habits ... permanently.