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Dan Pink spoke recently on Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. The RSAnimate of this has been watched (at the time of writing) 2,844,309 times, although I confess I had to be scolded into watching it by Matthew Taylor. In his talk, Dan draws on the well known study of the Candle problem, devised by Karl Duncker, who devised the term functional fixedness to describe the way that people don’t immediately realise that the matchbox could also play the part of a shelf for the candle (click on the link if that last sentence made no sense).

Dan Pink spoke recently on Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. The RSAnimate of this has been watched (at the time of writing) 2,844,309 times, although I confess I had to be scolded into watching it by Matthew Taylor. In his talk, Dan draws on the well known study of the Candle problem, devised by Karl Duncker, who devised the term functional fixedness to describe the way that people don’t immediately realise that the matchbox could also play the part of a shelf for the candle (click on the link if that last sentence made no sense).

If you like problems like this then read on, because I’ve been reading up on John Flanagan, a psychologist who studied the capability of ingenuity during the second world war while working for the US army air force. Flanagan came up with a test to identify ingenious personnel, comprising a series of problems followed by multiple choice options with all but the first and last letter of each word blanked out. Flanagan reckoned that: “the ingenious person confronted by a problem situation will be able to think of the clever solution very quickly, whereas the individual lacking this quality will be unable to think of such solutions even if given a large amount of time”. Here are two for you to try:

Q1. As part of a manufacturing process, the inside lip of a deep cup-shaped casting is machine threaded. The company found that metal chips produced by the threading operation were difficult to remove from the bottom of the casting without scratching the sides. A design engineer was able to solve this problem by having the operation performed…

A. i – – – – p     h – – h B. m – – – – n    c – – e C. f – – – – r    w – – l D. l – – – – d    b – – k E. u – – – – e    d – – n

Here’s a slightly different one:

Q2. A very rare severe wind storm destroyed the transmission tower of a television station in a small town. The station was located in a town in a flat prairie with no tall buildings. Its former 300 foot tower enabled it to serve a large farming community and the management wanted to restore service while a new tower was being erected.

The problem was temporarily solved by using a _____.

Too easy? Let me know if you’d like any more…

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