Decision making, creative thinking and heuristics

Few people realize how the way they think is often bounded by ideas that force them to limit their options and think, well, for lack of a better metaphor. inside the box. Creative thinking isn’t something that you must be born with. While talent helps, like all management skills, you can take what you have and make it even better with experience and practice. This assignment provides students with a series of problems that are easily solvable except for the fact that the way people think often means they don’t see or never even consider solutions that are readily available. The answers to these problems are in the attachment above though before students look at them, the should try to solve the problems using their own abilities and reasoning skills. (While not required, having the following items on hand may help students think through some of the following problems: 12 toothpicks or pencils, 10 small circular objects like small coins or buttons, a pencil to write with, and for the last problem, two lollipops and a friend.)

Once students have worked their way down through the list of problems below, their task is to identify why the solution, whether solved or not, seems or seemed difficult or challenging to so many.

Take the time to try an solve these problems before looking at the solutions or at least make a serious attempt. Doing so will make a much greater impression on thinking and enhance your problem solving skills and allow you to not only retain what you learn to a greater degree but enhance your ability to apply similar logic skills in the future.

Problem 1. A farmer approaches a river crossing while taking a ravenous dog, hungry goose and a bag of corn with him. At the river, there is a very small skiff that will allow him to row himself and take one of the animals or the bag of corn across, one at a time. How can he do that when the dog will eat the goose if left alone, just as the goose would eat the corn? He must get himself and all three of his items (the dog, goose, and corn) across the river. (Please note there is no tricking involved in any of these problems. It can be done.)

Problem 2. The following two scenarios are based on a real events. A woman is driving across the desert, without a cell phone has a flat tire in the pouring rain. She manages to jack up the car and takes off the five lug nuts holding the wheel with the flat tire. Just then, a flash flood washes the lug nuts away beyond recovery deep in the sand. How can she get the car back on the road?

Problem 3. Some friends are swimming together in a pond. The area is residential and the pond is ringed with lawns and gardens being watered. The pond is deep though and has a tangle of water plants growing at the bottom. One of the friends becomes entangled in the pond plants, underwater, just a foot from teh surface of the pool. He is struggling desperately, but his friends realize they won’t be able to free him in time. What else can the friends do?

Problem 4. Arrange your 12 toothpicks or pencils into four squares. Once you’re finished it should look something like a window or a plus sign, with a border on all sides. Now remove two toothpicks/pencils from the figure you’ve made to form two perfect squares. Do not touch any of the other toothpicks or pencils and the form left must be two squares, not rectangles and there should not be any leftovers or extraneous toothpicks or pencils. Can you do it?

Problem 5. Draw nine dots on a sheet of paper in three rows of three as shown below

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Now connect all nine dots with four straight lines without lifting your pencil off the paper.

Problem 6. Take out your ten circular objects and form them into five straight rows of four objects each. This may seem hard but it can be done so don’t give up too quickly.

Problem 7. You have eight circular coins that all appear to be the same but one of them is not. All weigh exactly the same save one. Fortunately you have a balance scale that can tell you if one side weighs more than the other but you can only use it twice. How can you be sure to find the coin that is different among the eight when you can only use the scale to twice?

Problem 8. In front of you is a nice cylindrically shaped cake that both looks, tastes and smells delicious. You, and seven of your friends have been invited to eat it but before you do, you face a challenge. You can only cut the cake three times and when you are done, you must have divided the cake into eight equal parts. Can you do it or does the cake go uneaten?

Problem 9. Take six of your toothpicks or pencils and lay three of them down to form a triangle. Using the remaining three toothpicks or pencils to form three more triangles of the exact same shape and size so the you have four triangles in front of you.using only the six toothpicks or pencils.

Problem 10. Finally, the last problem is a contest between you and your friend. Take out the two lollipops and give one to your friend. With the lollipops still wrapped both you and your friend will place your lollipops on a table in front of you. Now, without using your hands or elbows or placing your mouth closer than six inches from the lollipop get the candy into your mouth.

Many people fail to realize that the solutions to issues may lie in front of them. Once you have reviewed the answers to the problems attached above, write out why these problems have proven difficult for many people to solve. As a manager, your ability to look for solutions others overlook or reject out of hand can be one of the greatest assets you bring to an organization.

As your instructor, I’ll provide you with one final bonus problem for students to test themselves but you don’t have to answer it and the solution is not attached. If you can’t figure it out and still want to know the solution, email your instructor and he’ll provide you with the answer.

Bonus Problem: It is a dark and stormy night, and you”re driving in your sports car — a good looking little car–but with only two seats. Suddenly but the side of the road, you see three people stranded at a bus stop. One is a stranger who is having a heart attack at that very moment. Another is a childhood friend who has often saved your life. He has been begging to ride in your sports car. The third person is the man or woman of your dreams. It’s love at first sight. You recognize that you’ve suddenly found your soul mate, who you may never see again. You have just one empty seat in your car. Who do you pick up? Well you certainly owe a debt of gratitude to your friend but you should also pick up the stranger and save his life. And what of romance? As I say, you may never see the person of your dreams again. What do you do?

Solutions to Heuristics Problems

Problem 1. To get across the river the farmer needs to first take the goose across, Next he should row back across the river and take either the dog or corn, it won’t matter. Once he delivers the dog or corn across he should put the goose back in the boat and row back with it to the side he started on leaving his second item, the dog or corn alone on the far side of the river. Once the farmer gets across, he’ll take the third item across and leave the goose on the original shore. Finally the farmer will take on last round trip and retrieve the goose for a second time and take it across the river.

Problem 2. Take one lug nut off each of the remaining three wheels and use them on the spare tire once the flat tire has been replaced. This will allow the driver to drive out of the desert.

Problem 3. The friends can take one of the hoses used to water the lawns and give one end to their friend to use as a snorkel to breathe through until he can be rescued.

Problem 4.

Problem 5.

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Problem 6.

Place a coin at each intersection of two lines on the five pointed star to get five rows of four.

Problem 7,

Set two coins from the eight coins aside and weigh three coins on one side of the scale and three coins on the other. If both sides weigh the same then weight the two coins set aside and the heavier one will be the one you seek. If on the other hand one of the groups of three coins you originally weighed is heavier, then select two of that group of three that was heaviest and weight them again. If one of them is heavier, then that is the coin you seek. If both weigh the same than the third coin from your group of three that you set aside is the coin you seek.

Problem 8.

Cut the cake in half with your first cut right through the center. Cut the cake in quarters with your second cut at a 90 degree angle to your first cut. With your third and final cut, slice the cake horizontally instead of vertically right through the center essentially cutting the cake into two layers. That will give you eight identically sized pieces.

Problem 9.

Form the triangle at the bottom. Now think in three dimensions and put one end of the toothpicks or pencils at the three points of the triangle and the other end of the toothpicks should all meet together in the center above your original triangle on the ground. It should look like a three sided pyramid.

Problem 10.

You should unwrap your friend’s lollipop and stick it in his mouth and he should do the same thing for you.