Friday, December 14, 2007

Brain teasers

A cowboy rides into town on Friday, stays two consecutive days, and leaves on Friday. How could that be?

That's a typical interview question asked by cool companies that seek creative thinkers. The best candidates don't score points for the right answer, just for the right approach, kind of like new math.

Google Labs even had its own aptitude test, called GLAT. My favorite question on that test was, "what was the most beautiful math question ever derived?"

So what is the deal with the cowboy? If Friday is a day of the week, for which our thinking is reinforced by the fact that the cowboy stayed two consecutive days, the question seems impossible. So our assumption that Friday is a day of the week could be wrong. For example, Friday could be the name of the cowboy's horse.

Companies have come a long way from, "tell me about your last job." But they still ask you to work on Friday.

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