Posted: September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Many hundreds of years ago in a small Italian
town, a merchant had the misfortune of owing a
large sum of money to the moneylender. The
moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the
merchant’s beautiful daughter so he proposed a
bargain. He said he would forgo the merchant’s
debt if he could marry the daughter. Both the
merchant and his daughter were horrified by the
The moneylender told them that he would put a
black pebble and a white pebble into an empty
bag. The girl would then have to pick one pebble
from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she
would become the moneylender’s wife and her
father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the
white pebble she need not marry him and her
father’s debt would still be forgiven. 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 merchant’s garden. 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 her pebble from the bag.
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
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
moneylender 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.
The above story is used with the hope that it will
make us appreciate the difference between lateral
and logical thinking.
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 moneylender dared not admit
his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an
impossible situation into an advantageous one.
Most complex problems do
have a solution,
sometimes we have to
think about them in a
different way.


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