More Classic Problems

The History Of Lateral Thinking

Historically, the term „Lateral Thinking“ was first used in 1967 by Edward de Bono. According to Wikipedia, de Bono was using the anecdote where King Solomon resolves a dispute over the parentage of a child by calling for the child to be cut in half, and making his judgment according to the reactions that this order receives. Since de Bono an entire collection of now classical problems exemplifying the application of Lateral Thinking has been suggested. The following examples may give an idea of both the power of the method and the bandwidth of its use. .

The Method of Lateral Thinking

Problem solving is arguably among the most advanced and most noble of all human activities. As a constructive art it is typically associated with positive skills like logical thinking and creative reasoning. However, a set of negative habits and customs often stands in the way of exercising the art to its best. For example, unconsciously focussing a certain track of reasoning when trying to find a solution easily leads to ignoring all others. This is where the method of „Lateral Thinking“ hooks in. The underlying principle is simple: consciously open your mind as wide as possible when trying to solve a given problem and avoid any sort of prejudice and bias.

More Classic Lateral Thinking Scenarios

Please  consider the following problem which are three  of the most celebrated  lateral thinking examples today.

Scenario 4

Two trains are crossing the country from coast to coast, over 3,000 miles of railroad track. Train A is going from west to east at 70 miles per hour, and Train B is going from east to west at 80 miles per hour. Which train will be closer to the west-coast when they meet?



Scenario 5

Someone falls out of a thirty story building, but lives. With luck and their landing pad not being factors, how could they have survived the fall?



Scenario 6

A boat has a ladder that’s ten feet long, and hangs off the side of the boat, with its last two feet submerged in water. If the ocean tide rises five feet, how much of the ladder will be underwater?




Juerg Gutknecht
Über Juerg Gutknecht 29 Artikel
Jürg Gutknecht started his professional career in Computing when he joined the real-time systems programming group at Swissair. From 1970 and while being employed by IBM as a working student, Gutknecht studied Mathematics at the ETH Zurich, from where he graduated in 1977 with a PhD. After an employment as a professor of Mathematics at the Kantonsschule Heerbrugg in the Swiss Rheintal, Gutknecht joined Niklaus Wirth’s Lilith/ Modula research team in 1981 and, in 1985, after a sabbatical stay at the Xerox-PARC Research Laboratory in California, he was appointed Assistant Professor and later Full Professor of Computer Science at ETH. Together with Wirth, Gutknecht developed the Oberon programming language and the Ceres personal workstation. His esearch interests are in the area of programming languages, compilers, concurrency and component-oriented systems design.

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