Creativity – Dead or alive? It’s up to you!


By Gideon Gilda


A talented student comes to his teacher and with a sly look on his face he asks a question. He is hiding something in his hand and says: “In my hand I have a butterfly. Is it dead or alive?” The teacher looks at him and rolls his eyes as if to say – “How would I know?”


butterfly with child hands

(The photo by courtesy of )


What would your answer be? How would you resolve this dilemma?


At first glance it would seem that the teacher has a 50% chance of guessing the right answer. But a deeper examination will reveal that the dilemma is even greater. The teacher will be wrong whatever response he chooses. The question of whether the butterfly is dead or alive will be decided only after the answer is given. If the teacher says it is alive, the student will clench his fist before opening it to reveal the dead butterfly. If the teacher says it is dead, the student will open his hand and the butterfly will be free to fly away.

Have you ever been in a situation in which all the options you can think of are bad ones? Have you ever experienced the feeling that whatever you say or do – you will not succeed? The teacher pauses for a moment and then answers: “The answer lies in your hands.”

Innovation and Methodical Inventive Thinking

Methodological Inventive Thinking is a way of thinking that enables you to handle challenges and come up with innovative ideas within a relatively short time limit. The method is based on scientific principles and offers practical thinking tools such as that of adding a dimension, which will be discussed further on.


The teacher was asked to give an answer which would only really be decided upon after it was given. The riddle is structured in such a way that the teacher is bound to fail.

When it seems that all good options are blocked, and you feel you are about to fall, there is probably some obstacle that someone else has placed in your way – or maybe it was even you! Any worthy solution will require innovation, creativity. The obstacle in this case is created by the person asking the question. He asks a closed question with two options – dead or alive? Two options – both bad ones.

The thinking tool of adding a dimension

The thinking tool of adding a dimension enables us to move away from closed questions that life presents us with to open ones such as: who is it that actually decides the fate of the butterfly in this case?


The tool of adding a dimension changes the essence of the question, thereby expanding the range of possible answers. Now we can “play” with when the answer is to be given, the choice of who will make the decision, and other things such as where things will happen or what feelings and senses will be involved in handling the challenge.  


The creative breakthrough in adding a dimension is that by relating to the choice and time, a completely different answer emerges that surprises both us and the student ….


It is not only the butterfly’s fate, but yours as well, which now returns to its rightful place – in your own hands.


Gideon Gilda

CEO, Panta Rhei Ltd.

Expert in Organizational Innovation

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