Test your Lateral Thinking skill with some challenges

The are challenges at different skill levels for you to practice your Lateral Thinking. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on how you think. Don't simply solve the challenges and be satisfied (or dissatisfied!) with the result.

The purpose of these challenges is to help you develop more awareness of your thinking and to improve your skill in thinking. This is the value of the challenge, so resist the temptation to jump to the solution as soon as you get stuck.

Treat frustration with a challenge as an opportunity to ask yourself what approach you are taking and what alternatives there might be. Many of the challenges appear easy to solve with hindsight, so why are they difficult to solve on first attempt? This is because they require a change of perception, rather than better logic. These challenges are an opportunity to improve how you change your perception. 

As you work on the challenge write down your approach to solving it. Observe your own attitude of mind, what you choose to focus on and why?

You can improve your skill in thinking through practice and self observation. You will be more aware of thinking traps, how to challenge assumptions and consider alternatives.

What you might learn from the Challenges

The willingness to consider alternative ways of looking at a situation is an important attitude and skill in Lateral Thinking.

There are many challenges to solve. Here is a preview of five of them.

What is this? How many alternative explanations can you think of?

Skill level: Easy

In the Oil and Vinegar Challenge you will learn that if your starting point (premise) is wrong then excellent logic is insufficient.

Skill level: High

You will be presented with a seemingly unsolvable problem in the White and Black Stones Challenge. It requires a shift in focus to solve it.

Skill level: Medium

How many ways can you Divide a Square into four equal parts? The answer will surprise you and provides two important lessons. (1) There is often more than one right answer. (2) If you can abstract the concept behind an idea you can generate alternative versions of that concept.

Skill level: Easy and High

There are five Balance Challenges that were first discussed in Dr. Edward de Bono's book "The Five Day Course in Thinking". They involve balancing a water glass on a platform made from bottles and blunt table knives.

Skill level: Medium

Tackling these Challenges will show you that escaping from a thinking dead end requires a new hypothesis, an insight. This can emerge through playing and careful observation, seeking out what is different from your expectations as you experiment.

Useful lessons across all the Challenges

Develop a habit of mind that treats getting stuck as an invitation to look for a new hypothesis, rather than assume that the problem cannot be solved.

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