Do you make assumptions that turn out to be incorrect? Do you miss information that didn’t fit the pattern you expected?
We all do. It’s the way our brains work. We look for patterns, use our previous experience and rely on what we already know works. It’s an efficient way to work…most of the time.
Sometimes however, we need to trip our brains up and remind them to look beyond the obvious patterns, outside of what we already know works and not expect one situation to turn out pretty much like the last one. If we don’t occasionally abandon our preconceptions there is a chance we may miss opportunities or changes in customer needs or market demands.
For example, what’s your first answer to this question?
Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?
Most people will reply June. Be honest. Did you? Of course if you re-read the question you’ll realise the answer is Johnny. But how many times do you make assumptions (that fit a known pattern) like this at work?
Try these three:
- Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?
- How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?
- If you were running a race and you passed the person in 2nd place, what place would you be in now?
You know by now that these are trick questions so it’s unlikely you assumed the first answer you thought of was correct i.e. K2, 24 cubic metres, 1st place, for example. That’s the first step in realising that what your brain expects to see may not, in fact, be the right answer.
Think about the words that are used: ‘before Mount Everest was DISCOVERED’; ‘How much dirt in the HOLE?’ The third one may require you to actual visualise yourself overtaking the person in SECOND place.
You may face questions like these at an interview because the hiring manager wants to see if you can think calmly, logically and perhaps differently from other people. They may want to see if you will take the time to read the question a little more carefully and think long enough before blurting out the first answer that comes into your head.
There are loads of these questions online to try and even if you’re not going for an interview, it’s good to tease your brain occasionally and get it to look at things differently. These questions are designed to challenge your critical thinking abilities, and to test specific skills like creativity and logic. The more you practise, the better equipped you will be to deal with and find solutions for tricky questions and situations that might come up at work.
P.S. The answers are Mount Everest – it was still there before it was discovered; None – because it’s a hole – and 2nd place – you’re still behind the person in first.