A simple exercise in thinking – 50% of people get this wrong!

By Roger La Salle



Why do only 50% of people get this right?

Alternatively, 50% get it wrong; and we have conducted this exercise many times.


A couple of week ago we conducted a three day intensive training workshop in Malaysia.

Three full eight hour days many seem a stretch, but the feedback was sensational with many participants scoring the workshop 10/10.

The topic was innovation (of course) and the “Commercialisation of Technology”.

The attendees were split into teams (simulated companies) and asked to explore various questions and problem solve. The aim was to show how different people view the same problem from different perspectives.

The Exercise

Consider a race between two people where there are two laps of an athletics track.

On the first lap they will both walk, on the second lap they will both run.

In this case one person wins, let us say by ten seconds.

Assume in the exercise that nobody gets tired, no matter which order the laps are conducted.

The question:

If we now reverse the order of the legs to that on the first lap they run then on the second lap they walk, will the winning distance between the first and second place be different.

Not only were the teams asked to answer the question, there being only two possible answers, “SAME” or DIFFERENT”, but they were also asked to prove their answer using a real experiment in the conference room as we watched.

As expected the participants were split with their answers, but the exercise was a huge “ hit” with everybody involved and looking on during the simulation; and as it happened, cheering when their correct answer emerged.

A great and entertaining exercise in thinking.

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Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. A serial inventor, Roger is also responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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