Thinking outside the box |

Thinking outside the box

I am looking for a 30 min exercise to deliver to 25 people. The objective is to enourage 'Thinking outside the box'. This exercise is to demonstrate how there are more than one way to a solution.
Jane Hanratty


Try breaking them into 3 groups and giving them a cake per group. They are to cut the cake into 8 pieces using just 3 cuts of a knife (you have to give them the knife too!)

There is more than one way to do this, hence the lesson is learned. If you do this just before a break they will also have a piece of cake each to have with their tea/coffee.

We use a couple of really good fun type exercises - if you email us we will reply with copies attached
One called 'Who Goes to the Bull?' the other is a 'Join the Dots' exercise.

markyoxon's picture

Hi. I ran a similar session within a project management course & loads of materials in wikipedia - eg refs. to de Bono's work and both written & visual materials which went down very well. Happy to send you the word docs. Regards, Mark

Hi Claire
It's probably because this is the end of a very stressful day, but I can't think of a way to cut a cake into 8 with three cuts! Can you post the answer? Or email me? I think it's a great exercise.

mike morrison's picture

One answer...
through the diameter....
turn 90 degrees - cut again through the diameter
then cut through the horizontal

thus cutting 4 into 8 pieces...

But for real out of the box thinking - consider the environment - work in a room they were not expecting - or even out in the street - or if that is 'too out of the box' change the room layout from what they are used to to something they would not expect... the environment and our approach/ behaviours go a long way to generating 'out of the box' thinking

Cathy2shoes's picture

Although 1 - 2 hours tends to get more spectacular results - I think it might work in 30 minutes.

Based on that internet trading thing - what can you trade a paperclip for? A guy made a series of upward trades from a paperclip to a year's lease on a fabulous house.

Anyway - split the group into teams (5 x 5) give them a paperclip (a nice coloured or stripey one) and tell them they have to use their existing contacts, powers of persuasion and mobiles to trade up as often as they can for an item of higher value each time.

My friend did this recently (2 hours) and went paperclip - bottle of wine (£12) - 2 x bottle of port .............. racehorse!!!

Be interested to hear how it goes if you use it.

You could tell them the story about how, when the space race was hotting up between the USA and the USSR, NASA spent a fortune inventing, designing and producing a pen that would write in zero gravity. They did manage it, and it also had a little commercial success. The USSR's solution to the problem was to use a pencil.

This and many more stories, anecdotes for use in development sessions can be found at

russlater's picture

according to Mr S Fry and the QI elves this is an urban myth...pencils were banned on space flights because broken leads and shavings will float around in zero-g creating a hazard. Besides which a normal 16p biro will work in no gravity.

suebeatt's picture

Hi Jane

Split into 5 teams of 5. Give each team an everyday object. The winner is the team that comes up with the most uses for their object.



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