Youre in a pickle, a real fix of a situation and you have been racking your brain searching for a logical solution. The question is, do you resign yourself to fate; or do you dig deep into the recesses of all you have ever learned to fly onto another day of blue skies. Bob Miller, ATP, CFII illustrates Lateral vs. Logical Thinking Skills with the following explanatory tale.
Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter. So he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the farmer’s debt if he could marry his daughter.
Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. So the cunning money-lender suggested that they let providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.
1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father's debt would be forgiven.
2) If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be forgiven.
3) But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.
They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer’s field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.
What’s A Girl Supposed to DO?
Now, imagine that you were standing in the field. What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her? Careful analysis would produce three possibilities:
1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.
2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the money-lender as a cheat.
3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.
This story is illustrative of the difference between lateral and logical thinking. The girl’s dilemma cannot be solved with logical thinking.
Using lateral thinking to solve the problem, the girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles. “Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.” Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the money-lender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
Most complex problems do have a solution. Traditional logical thinking among pilots draws upon the rote lessons we learned in the typical training environment. Hopefully, all of the things we were taught will cover every eventuality we might encounter in the sky. Ideally, our emergency checklists will provide a solution to even the nastiest emergency we might encounter. But what if this is not true? What if we have exhausted all of the LOGICAL solutions? We suffer a psychological event called RESIGNATION. We resign ourselves to the ultimate fate of our emergency . . . we give up and die.
Lateral thinking is not taught in most traditional flight training programs. Without the ability to engage in lateral thinking, we focus on LOGICAL solutions. Had the farmer’s daughter engaged in logical thinking, any choice she made would have been unpleasant. A quick recollection of Captain Al Haines’ remarkable landing of the catastrophically disabled United Flight 232 in 1989 is an example of lateral thinking. There were no emergency checklists addressing the simultaneous loss of all three independent hydraulic systems in the DC-10 . . . because the odds for such an event occurring were greater than a billion to one! Captain Haines and his crew effectively re-wrote the book on crew resource management by applying lateral thinking to their in-flight emergency.
In Ch. 13, page 142 of his Adventures in Flight, Mr. Miller also referrers to RESIGNATION as a contributing factor in John F. Kennedys, Jr. death spiral into the Atlantic.
For a discussion of Lateral Thinking see the following sites.