Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thinking Outside The Box...

Thinking Outside The Box

Centuries ago, in a small Italian town, a merchant had the mis-
fortune of owing a large sum of money to the moneylender.

The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant's
beautiful daughter, so he proposed a bargain. He promised to
cancel the merchant's debt if he could marry the merchant's

Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified by the
proposal. The cunning moneylender suggested that they let
providence decide the matter.

The moneylender told them that he would put a black pebble
and a white pebble into an empty bag. The girl would then have
to pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black
pebble, she would become the moneylender's wife, and her
father's debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white
pebble, she need not marry him, and her father's debt would
still be forgiven. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her
father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the merchant's
garden. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up
two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed
that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the
bag. He then asked the girl to pick her pebble from the bag.

Now, imagine you were standing in the merchant's garden. What
would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise
her, what would you have told her? Careful analysis would
produce three possibilities:

1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.

2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in
the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat.

3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in
order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.

Take a moment to ponder over the story. The above story is used
with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference
between lateral and logical thinking. The girl's dilemma cannot
be solved with traditional, logical thinking.

Think of the consequences if she chooses the logical answers.

What would you recommend the girl do?

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble.
Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-
strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other

"Oh, how clumsy of me," she said. "But never mind, 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. And since the moneylender dared not
admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an
impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.

Moral of the Story: Most complex problems do have a
solution. Sometimes we have to think about them in a
different way.



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