Probortunity and Out-of-Box Thinking

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2010 in Leadership and Management

These stories below are some good examples of innovative thinking.

  • An interesting insight into tough decision making

A group of children were playing near two railway tracks, one still in use while the other disused. Only one child played on the disused track, the rest on the operational track.The train is coming, and you are just beside the track interchange. You can make the train change its course to the disused track and save most of the kids. However, that would also mean the lone child playing by the disused track would be sacrificed. Or would you rather let the train go its way?

Let’s take a pause to think what kind of decision we should make…

Most people might choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. You might think the same way, I guess. Exactly, I thought the same way initially because to save most of the children at the expense of only one child was rational decision most people would make, morally and emotionally. But, have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place?

Nevertheless, he had to be sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was. This kind of dilemma happens around us every day. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority are. The child who chose not to play with the rest on the operational track was sidelined. And in the case he was sacrificed, very few would shed tears for him.

The great critic Leo Velski Julian who told the story said he would not try to change the course of the train because he believed that the kids playing on the operational track should have known very well that track was still in use, and that they should have run away if they heard the train’s sirens. If the train was diverted, that lone child would definitely die because he never thought the train could come over to that track! Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe (or reached a dead-end). If the train was diverted to the unsafe track, we could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake! And in your attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one child, you might end up sacrificing hundreds of people to save these few ignorant kids.

An even better strategy is to let the train continue on its usual track, but try to warn the driver by jumping and shouting near the track by waving a red cloth to alarm the driver to apply the brakes. This would even scare the children away if they were within earshot.

While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the right one.

“Remember that what’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right.”

Moral of the story: Everybody makes mistakes; that’s why they put erasers on pencils.

  • Thinking out of the Box – Positive Thinking

A 99.95% challenge that you will have a wrong answer to the question asked in the passage.Once there was loving couple traveling in a bus in a mountainous area. They decided to get down at some place. After the couple got down at some place the bus moved on. As the bus moved on, a huge rock fell on the bus from the mountain and crushed the bus to crumbs. Everybody on board was killed.

Most of us, if we were there, would have shed a few tears for the unfortunate victims, and thanked God for saving our lives.

The couple upon seeing that, said, ‘We wish we were on that bus.’ Why do you think they said that?

If they had remained on the bus instead of deciding to get down, the resulting time delay could have been avoided and the rock could have fallen after the bus had passed…

Thinking out of the Box or Think positive in life always and look for opportunities when you can help others…

Honorable Prophet of Islam (PBUH) said: “Wisdom and intellect are the first thing that God created.”

Imam Reza said: “Wisdom and intellect is every man’s friend, ignorance and illiteracy, are his enemies.”

  • Another interesting insight into tough decision making

Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender.The Moneylender, who was old and cunning, fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter. So he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the farmer’s debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal.

So the cunning moneylender suggested that they let providence decide the matter.

He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.

1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven.

2) If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven.

3) 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 farmer’s field. 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 money bag.

The Moneylender, then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the money bag.

Now, imagine that you were standing in the field. 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 money 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. What would you recommend to the girl to do?

Well, here is what she did …

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

“Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the money bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”

Since the remaining pebble is black, it would 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: Even the most challenging and life-impacting problems do have a positive solution. It is only that we don’t attempt to think.

  • Think Smart, Work Smart, Rest Smart

Once there were a group of men – one young hot-blooded chap and a number of old folk, doing timber job (woodcutters) in a jungle.This young chap was very hard working. He always continued to work through his break time and complained that those old folks were wasting time, having to take a break few times a day to drink and chat. As times goes by, this young chap noticed that even though he worked through his break time and hardly took a rest,  those old folk were chopping the same amount of trees as he did and sometimes did more than he did. It was as if those old folks worked through the break time as he did. So he decided to work harder the next day. Unfortunately the results were even worse.

One day, one of the old folk invited him for a drink during their break time. That young chap refused and said he has no extra time to spend! Then the old man smiled to him and said it was just a waste of effort to keep chopping trees without pause. Sooner or later you will give up or be so exhausted as you have spent too much energy.

When the young man went to join the others, he suddenly realized that actually during break times while those old folks were having a chat, they were also re-sharpening their Axe at the same time! And that’s how they could chop faster than him and yet spent lesser time! The old folk said what we need is efficiency by making use of our skill and ability intelligently. Only then can we have more time to do other things.

Otherwise you will always keep saying … I have no time!

Moral of the Story: By taking a short break during work, it would make you feel fresher, think well and work better after the break! But by taking a break, it is not to stop work but to rest and re-think our strategy to go about it from another angle.

  • Challenges keeps us fresh

Life is to strive for the best … rather pass by with rest … The Japanese have always loved fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have not held many fish for decades. So to feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther than ever. The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring in the fish. If the return trip took more than a few days, the fish were not fresh. The Japanese did not like the taste.To solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats. They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. However, the Japanese could taste the difference between fresh and frozen and they did not like frozen fish. The frozen fish brought a lower price. So fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and stuff them in the tanks, fin to fin. After a little thrashing around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive. Unfortunately, the Japanese could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days, they lost their fresh-fish taste. The Japanese preferred the lively taste of fresh fish, not sluggish fish.

So how did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem? How do they get fresh-tasting fish to Japan? To keep the fish tasting fresh, the Japanese fishing companies (still) put the fish in the tanks. But now they add a small shark to each tank. The shark eats a few fish, but most of the fish arrive in a very lively state.

This might sound a very cruel idea to vegetarians, but we must remember that these fishermen have been practicing their livelihood for hundreds of years and it is all that they know. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, so is hunger.

Those hungry for knowledge have a huge appetite for challenges.

Like the Japanese fish – “Man thrives, oddly enough, only in the presence of a challenging environment.” – said L. Ron Hubbard Challenges are what keeps us fresh!

Instead of avoiding challenges, jump into them. Beat the heck out of them. Enjoy the game. If your challenges are too large or too numerous, reorganize the challenge, team up, be resourceful and do not give up. Failing makes you tired. If you have met your goals, set some bigger goals. Once you meet your personal or family needs, move onto goals for your group, the society, even mankind.

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