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Logical with hindsight
(The teaching of creative thinking. Page 2)

Add up all the numbers from 1 to 10. This is a simple task which anyone can do.

Now add up the numbers from 1 to 100.


There is nothing difficult about the task, but it is tedious, takes a long time and leaves plenty of room for mistakes.

Now write out the numbers from 1 to 100 as follows:

1        2        3......98        99        100

Now write them backwards under the first numbers to give

1        2        3......98        99        100

100   99      98......3          2            1

If you add up each vertical pair, you will always get 101. This is because the top row increases by one and the bottom row decreases by one, so the total must remain the same at 101. So, we have 100 X 101. But this is twice as many as we need as we have added up two lots of numbers from 1 to 100. So, we divide by 2 to get 50 X 101 which gives the answer of 5,050. Not only is this process quick, but the chance of making a mistake is reduced.

Once again, this process is completely logical in hindsight. Why then is it so difficult to see in the first place?

"This process is completely logical with hindsight. Why then is it so difficult to see in the first place?"

In our intellectual culture, we have acknowledged the value of creativity but treated it as a special gift which some people might have and others can only envy. This view of creativity has applied mainly to artistic work. In all other areas we have felt-and continue to do so today-that logic is enough.


Any valuable "creative idea" must always be logical in hindsight (after it has been seen). If the idea were not logical with hindsight, then we would never be able to see the value of the idea. Ideas that are not logical in hindsight remain as "mad" ideas. They may be mad forever or only until we catch up with the paradigm change. We would have no way of distinguishing between the two types of madness. So, if every valuable creative idea is logical in hindsight, then we claim that the idea could have been reached by "good" logic in the first place. We have incorrectly concluded that need to teach better logic and not creativity.


On one occasion I was discussing river pollution with some people concerned with this matter. Using one of the provocative techniques of lateral thinking and the word I invented many years ago to signal a provocation, I said: "Po, any factory is downstream of itself." This seems an absurdity. How could a factory be in two places at the same time?

From this deliberate provocation comes a simple idea. We would legislate that any factory built on a river must have its inlet (taking in water) downstream of its own outlet (putting out effluent). In this way the factory would always be the first to get its own pollution and would have to be more careful about cleaning up the effluent. This simple idea has now become legislation in some countries. Again, this idea is totally logical with hindsight.

The key word is perception. Our whole intellectual tradition has been concerned with processing methods such as logic and mathematics. We have not dealt with perception for the very simple reason that until relatively recently we had no idea how perception worked.

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