Challenge the status quo … regularly!


Lesson SIX

One of my favorite lateral thinking lessons. Why? Because it is the easiest to teach and the most fun to interact with others, especially children.

Basically, you look at things in your reality that have always been, or usually are a certain way, and you ask the question “why?” Then you try to act on the assumptions that are brought into focus.

When we ask “why?”, we are often asking the more specific question . . . “Is this the only way to do something?”


Child’s play

Why are the plates we eat off round?

(Here we are really asking: “is round the only shape that plates can be?”)

Somebody has already thought about square plates and rectangular plates, but what if we explore the shape and use of plates further? For example:

  • Plates with an elevated platform for sauces and condiments;
  • Plates in the shape of letters of the alphabet or numbers;
  • Plates in the shape of cars or toys that children love;
  • Plates with holders for your cutlery;
  • Plates that glow in the dark;
  • Plates that weigh the food that you eat;
  • Plates with a video screen at the bottom encouraging kids to eat all their food so they can watch their program at the dinner table;
  • Plates that retain or promote heat or cold;
  • Soup bowls with magnetic stirrers;
  • Plates or bowls with a special message that is revealed when you eat it like “Marry me?”, “You’re FIRED!” “I love you Mum and Dad (but I’m PREGNANT!)”, Dad, I PRANGED the car!”;
  • Plates that play music or entertain;
  • Plates with lateral thinking lessons printed on them.

Some people might think that when you ask questions like “why are plates round?”, you appear to be stupid. There are NO stupid questions when you come to think of it, only stupid answers. For example, a stupid answer might be “that’s a stupid question!”



Here are a few different examples to give you a better feel for this technique. In each example, I challenge a situation and lead with a couple of thoughts. See what you can add:

At the movie theatre … “why buy tickets?”

Apply for a job; Rent/download/buy instead; …

At a job interview … “why apply for the job?”

Ask about the company and its attitude to things that are important to you; Demonstrate your strengths by mimicking a cold sales call; …

On the first date … “Why go on a date?”

Suggest that the first step NOT be a date, but a shared activity or interest; Invite the person over without making it a date; …

On a sailing trip … “Why sail?”

Park the boat at a favorite spot and stay there with free accommodation; Motor up smaller channels you can’t access by sailing (and having to tack) for a change of scenery; …

You get the idea!

Share this lesson with kids and pose the question “why” to some facet of their life that is taken for granted. It’s an awesome way to kickstart their creativity and yours. Have fun questioning everything!

  • Right now, pick something that you have never questioned before and ask “why?”
  • Next time there is a meeting at work, try posing (to yourself at first until you build confidence) the question “why” to what is on the agenda and see what creative ideas you can come up with and contribute. You may find your contributions to meetings highly valued in the future.
  • Why is something done a certain way?
  • Why must we always go here?
  • Why do we believe that . . . ?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • Why do I want to be  . . . .?????

Make it a habit to regularly challenge assumptions

… to bring fresh, creative alternatives consistently.

I hope you can now see WHY this is my favorite and easiest lesson to teach.

Not everybody will like it when you challenge the status quo. But, as you constantly contribute fresh new creative thinking to your workplace, family, and friends, I promise you, you will win their hearts, and just as importantly, you will win their minds.

Lateral Thinking Lesson 6 – Summary

You can generate high-quality creative thinking simply by challenging existing concepts, ideas, philosophies, or beliefs.

Ask the question “why?” Challenge the status quo. 


That’s all for today folks. Please remember to discuss what you have learned here with others to reinforce your learning, understanding, and to develop neural pathways of good habits.


You should be hugely confident to discuss the six following subjects (because I know you are doing the lessons in the order in which they were designed LOL):

  1. Our education and life experiences can often lead to a “blinkered” viewpoint;
  2. Random starting points (or random entry points) are a lateral thinking tool (or skill) that can be easily learned and used to break the shackles of our blinkered thinking;
  3. Creative thinking is merely the combining of two or more ideas/things that haven’t been combined/considered before;
  4. Considering the viewpoints or perspectives of others is an effective tool for creating alternatives;
  5. Provocation is a great way to start new thinking; and
  6. Challenging the status quo by asking “why?” is an excellent lateral thinking tool of creativity and a great introduction to lateral thinking creativity for kids;


Don’t forget to contact me if you have any problems or questions. And please share any interesting experiences you have when you ask the question “why?”

Go to lesson 7

Escape dominant thinking


And … please make use of these:

Lateral thinking practice exercises

These free lateral thinking lessons are brought to you by Michael Muxworthy

Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

2 thoughts on “6. Challenge assumptions

  1. Funny this reminds me of that crazy scientist, Julius Sumner Miller, who had a science TV show way back, who’s always pose the question “Why is it so”. I’m looking forward to challenging the “why”, especially with my two boys.


    1. Asking “why” is an attribute often attributed to children. It comes naturally to them. Sometimes, often, we adults stop asking “why”. We tend to accept the status quo. You can learn much from a child’s curiosity,


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