Classic lateral thinking examples

Lateral thinking applied in business

Examples of lateral thinking in daily life


Welcome to the most powerful lateral thinking examples pages available anywhere on the internet …

For “CLASSIC” lateral thinking examples from Edward de Bono continue scrolling down this page.

“EVERYDAY” lateral thinking examples. Real-life situations click here

Powerful lateral thinking BUSINESS SOLUTIONS click here

Lateral thinking examples in JOB INTERVIEWS and RESUMES click here

Or, for a full list of all the lateral thinking example pages please scroll to the bottom of this page.


The Judgement of Soloman Lateral Thinking Example

This is a story about King Solomon of Israel from the Hebrew Bible.

King Solomon was faced with the dilemma of ruling between two women who were both claiming the same child as their own. Two mothers of infant boys lived in the same house. One of the boys died, and both mothers claimed the surviving infant as their own,

Soloman called for a sword, declaring that he would cut the surviving child in two, with each mother to be given half.  One mother didn’t contest the ruling. She declared that if she couldn’t have the child, neither of them could. The other mother couldn’t accept the judgment. She begged Solomon …

“Give the baby to her, just don’t kill him!”

King Solomon declared the second woman the true mother because a mother would give up her baby if it was necessary to save the infant’s life. Throughout all of Israel, this wise judgment was to become considered an example of profound wisdom.

Edward de Bono recognized this to be an example of lateral thinking when he first introduced the subject in 1967.

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Lateral thinking defined

Interest in lateral thinking has been falling away for decades at a time we need it the most. See Michael Muxworthy’s vision to turn the tables with “lateral thinking fiction” … coming soon!

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The Tale of Two Pebbles Lateral Thinking Example

De Bono's tale of two pebbles
Classic lateral thinking example the tale of two pebbles

Long ago in a small village in India, a poor farmer owed a great deal of money to an evil moneylender. The moneylender was very old and ugly, and he fancied the farmer’s very attractive daughter, so he offered a bargain to the farmer.

The moneylender offered to forgo the debt owed by the farmer if he could marry his daughter. Farmer and daughter were horrified. The moneylender was cunning though and suggested they let fate determine the matter. He told them that he’d put both a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag so that the girl could pick one pebble from the bag. The possible outcomes at this point were:

  1. A black pebble meant she would become the moneylender’s wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven;
  2. A white pebble meant she need not marry the moneylender and her father’s debt would be paid.
  3. Refusing to pick a pebble meant that her father would be thrown into debtors’ jail.

The conversation occurred as they were standing on a pebbled path near a creek. As they talked, the moneylender bent over and picked up two pebbles. As he was picking them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.

At this point, you imagine yourself advising the daughter. What would you tell her?

Using normal (vertical) logic only three possibilities seem possible:

  1. Refuse to pick a pebble leading to her father having to go to jail;
  2. Expose the money-lender as a cheat, but her father would end up going to jail anyway.
  3. She should sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and jail.

The girl’s dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical thinking. Think of the consequences if she chooses the above logical answers.

Using lateral thinking you devise a far superior outcome and you advise the daughter.

The girl puts her hand into the bag and draws out a black pebble. Without looking at it or allowing it to be seen, she fumbles and lets it fall onto the pebbled path where it becomes lost among all the other pebbles.

“Sorry!” she says. “However, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”

Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one.

The money-lender dared not admit his dishonesty. You have changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.

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Creative thinking methods for self-improvement:

Goal-setting – Public speaking – Problem-solving – Time management – “Backwards” planning – Memory skill

Each of these skills takes about 10 minutes to learn … the benefits last a lifetime.

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The River Factory Lateral Thinking Example

Lateral thinking example of river factory

De Bono suggests that “each factory must be downstream of itself”. In other words, factories should be required to have their water intakes downstream from their outflow pipes.

The thinking behind this is that now, the quality of water flowing out of a factory is much more important to that factory. Supposedly, some countries have written this idea into law.

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Lateral thinking examples in everyday life

Powerful examples from Michael Muxworthy of how he uses lateral thinking to get through the challenges of everyday life.

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Examples of lateral thinking succeeding in business

Differentiate – New Business – Exceptional Profits. Real examples from Michael Muxworthy

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Examples of lateral thinking job interview questions and answers

ADD VALUE … to your worth in the employment marketplace.

Build lateral thinking examples into your resume.

Prepare for lateral thinking questions in job interviews.

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The 4WD Incubator Lateral Thinking Example

Lateral thinking example of supplying incubators
An incubator problem solved by lateral thinking

In 1998 Katmandu, Nepal, there was a critical shortage of working incubators for new-born children. An incredible 96% of all incubators in Nepal were out of operation within 5 years of use; broken down and unable to be fixed because of a lack of knowledge.

An aid worker working in Katmandu noticed a strong presence of Toyota 4 Runners. They were popular because there was plenty of parts and local expertise. It was a thriving industry.

The lateral thinking solution devised was to build incubators out of Toyota parts so that the local mechanics easily identified problems and made repairs.

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Lessons that use real examples . . . to teach

Provocation Operation (po) – Alternative Perspective – Random Starting Points – Creative Combinations – Working Backwards – Escape Dominant Thinking – Challenge Existing Assumptions

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This lateral thinking classic example is around in a lot of different versions.

The Yacht Lateral Thinking Example

Classic lateral thinking example involving a boat
Lateral thinking example of a sailboat at sea

A solo sailor aboard a fiberglass yacht decides to dive overboard and see if he can break off some oysters from rocks he can see submerged below the surface. He only has a knife. When he resurfaces, he realizes that he forgot to put the ladder down. The fiberglass sides of the boat are shiny and very slippery. There is no way to climb back on board. The man realizes that he will die if he doesn’t do something.

The solution is to use the knife to cut a hole into the fiberglass:

  • to make footholes that can be used to climb up; or
  • make a hole big enough to crawl through; or
  • sink the boat so that he can at least use the lifeboat.

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Afraid? Test yourself LOL:

Lateral Thinking Puzzles

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I’m not too sure about this next classic lateral thinking example. It might be true. It’s certainly hilarious.

The Letter From Jail Lateral Thinking Example

Classic lateral thinking example of letter from jail
The letter from jail lateral thinking example.

A man who had been locked up in jail for several years knew that his mail was read by the authorities. He and his wife would write to each other on a regular basis. One day, the man received a letter telling him that she wanted to begin planting the vegetable garden but she couldn’t operate the rotor-tiller. The ground was extremely hard and without the aide of the tiller, she didn’t think she could manage the task.

The husband thought about this for a while, and then he wrote back . . . “Stop immediately! Do NOT plant anything in the vegetable garden. That’s where all the money and gold is hidden!!”

About a week later, the woman wrote back to her husband . . . “I knew I married a very smart man. A dozen police officers just left here muddied and exhausted after digging up the vegetable garden for several hours. There will be fresh vegetables on the table by the time you get back home.”

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The Failed Baseball Bat Lateral Thinking Example

Lateral thinking example of baseball bat
Classic baseball bat example of lateral thinking in business

A businessman decides to cash in on a wave of recent enthusiasm in the game of baseball. He orders and pays (non-refundable) for 100,000 baseball bats in advance to be made in China. The Chinese however, know very little about the “science” of making quality baseball bats. When the bats arrive, they are vastly inferior to the bats made in America. They only hit the ball HALF as far.

What does the businessman do?

He turns the situation to his advantage and orders 100,000 baseballs from the Chinese KNOWING that they will also be inferior and not be able to fly as far.

He then promotes his baseball bats and balls as the PERFECT combination for use in the backyard and makes a healthy profit.

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The Coca-Cola Piggyback Lateral Thinking Example

Lateral thinking example with Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola lateral thinking example

In the late 1980’s, one in every five children under the age of five that lived in remote areas of Zambia died because of very simple causes, a significant one being dehydration caused by diarrhea. A man by the name of Simon Berry who worked for the British Aid Program put his mind to the problem.

The task at hand was to somehow organize the efficient and widespread distribution of oral rehydration salts. Transportation and road infrastructure was a disaster in Zambia at this time. Despite numerous and repeated attempts, virtually NOTHING was getting through to the people most in need. He needed to find a solution.

Simon noted something in his widespread travels throughout Zambia . . . no matter how remote the location, Coca-Cola somehow found its way there in reliable quantities. The Coca-Cola organization didn’t have formal organized methods for getting their product through. It was simply a case of the people loving the product so much that the demand found a way through.

Simon eventually created “AidPods”, which were small packages of the badly needed oral rehydration salts that neatly fitted in between the spouts and necks of the Coke bottles. Every carton of Coke delivered in rural areas included the packages. Many lives were saved.

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This classic lateral thinking example is one you can easily relate to.

The Bus Stop Lateral Thinking Example

Lateral thinking example of bus stop choice
Classic bus stop example of lateral thinking

A man drives along an open, rural and exposed road on a cold, wet and windy night. As he approaches an isolated bus stop he notices that there are 3 people waiting:

  1. An old lady in urgent need of medical attention;
  2. His best mate who only recently saved his life; and
  3. A beautiful girl that he has been wanting to meet and ask out for a while.

He decides to stop and help out, but his car only holds the driver and one passenger. He will not overload his car. What is the best option?

In this lateral thinking classic example, the man uses the circumstances to his ULTIMATE advantage.

The man stops at the bus stop and gets out of his car. He says to his best mate “I know you are great at helping people. Please take my car and get this old lady to the hospital. I will catch the bus with this young lady and keep her safe until it comes”.

He makes a good impression with the young lady, helps his mate, and gets the old lady the help she needs.

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These additional example pages might also help:

Examples of lateral thinking questions in job interviewsClick here.

Examples of lateral thinking in real day-to-day situationsClick here.

Examples of lateral thinking in real business situations Click here.

Theoretical examples of lateral thinking techniques put into action with exercisesClick here.

Examples specific to Provocation Operation (po) as a lesson … Click here.

Example of Alternative Perspective use in police work as a lesson … Click here.

Examples of Random Starting Points as a lesson … Click here.

Examples of Creative Combinations as a lesson … Click here.

Examples of Working Backwards as a lesson … Click here.

Examples of how to Escape Dominant Thinking as a lesson … Click here.

Examples of the importance of Challenge Existing Assumptions as a lesson … Click here.

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Check out the concise definition: Lateral thinking

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For the complete lateral thinking menuClick here

More than 10 years in the writing, my first novel is currently undergoing its 8th professional edit. It’s close(r) LOL …

Michael Muxworthy author

“Life’s purpose is to evolve.

It is our capacity for creativity … that makes our human evolution so exceptional“

Coming soon from Lateral thinking author, Michael Muxworthy, a powerful exposition into the alien question.

Lateral thinking investigations … of the third kind


Chapter ONE



Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

‘That first domino began an endless chain of events that cannot be escaped …

not by the limitlessness of space,

nor even by the end of time itself …’

“We should NEVER have trusted the aliens”

Chapter ONE



Coming soon:

For most of his adult life, Evan Armstrong has been afflicted by dreams of a frightening encounter that warns of an apocalyptic future. A traumatic incident ends the dreams, to be replaced by fractured memories of something he was never meant to remember.

A twisted evolutionary pathway . . . a bridge from science to religion. Was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy an unintended consequence of Roswell?

Illuminati – Majestic 12 – Freemasons – A New World Order

 Not just theories . . . you will believe.

We should never have trusted the aliens, the first novel in the “Lateral thinking investigations . . . of the third kind” series is nearing completion. Sharpen your skills, do my free lateral thinking course. Get ready to have your entire world tipped upside down as I apply lateral thinking to the alien question.

Michael Muxworthy

Lateral Thinking Investigations . . . of the Third kind