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Are YOU smarter than a 5th Grader?

Yesterday, I was asked to answer this Fifth Grade (Primary Five) math question. See if you can obtain the answer without having to build the table.

Fifth Grade Math Question

For those of you who freak out even at the hint of a math question, please note that this is NOT really a math problem (it is just disguised as one). It is designed to test your thinking abilities, and as leaders, we must be able to at least address questions like this. If we are afraid to tackle seemingly math-based questions, we will have a hard time leading our team to solve similar questions. So for now, get past the math-ness of this question and come up with your answer.

Did you get Column A? Well done! That is the answer!

If you didn't get that answer, go back and try to figure it out.

Okay, good. Now let's extend this a little bit more. Which column would the number "1566" appear?

The correct answer is C.

Did you get that too? If yes, then you are smarter than a fifth grader.

So what?

The number one key leadership skill for 2020 is complex problem solving as identified by the World Economic Forum. The thinking process for complex problem solving starts with structured problem solving, which this question is. Hence, if we want to build complex problem solving skills, we must be able to build structured problem solving skills. In this article, if you are not already adept at it, I will help you uncover your own structured problem solving skills, and from there, lead in into complex problem solving (which we will not dive into today). I hope this will dispel all notions that you are bad at math, and you can't solve math-based problems. Math is just the proxy for logical thinking, and that is a key trait for problem solvers.

1. Identify determinants

The first thing you need to do in any problem-solving process is to identify the determinants. A determinant is basically a factor which directly impacts the outcome of a problem. In our math problem, the determinants are consecutive natural numbers, although the order with which they appear on our grid may not be conventional.

Let's now take a practical problem.

You are the manager in the management office of a new condominium project that has been receiving numerous complaints about the speed of the elevators. Apparently, it is moving too slowly, and people have to wait many minutes for the arrival of the lift. The lift engineers say that this is the nature of this model of lift, and they cannot increase its speed. What can you, as the manager in the management office, do?