The riddle of the two guards

Sometimes when I’m facing someone with “challenging” behavior, I ask myself if there’s anything predictable in the way that person responds.  If there is, can we use that pattern to help resolve the problem?

Consider the old riddle of the two identical guards in front of two identical doors.  The only information that you have is:

  • You must choose and enter one of the doors
  • One door leads to a wonderful experience, and the other to horrible consequences
  • You can only ask one question to only one guard, to help you with your choice
  • One of the guards always tells the truth, and the other always lies, but you don’t know which is which

OK, now what can you do with that to make sure you make the right decision?  I’ll wait and listen to some interlude music while you make up your mind.

Well, in case you haven’t come up with the answer yet (or you aren’t even working on it), here’s the solution: you ask either guard what the other guard would tell you is the good door—then, whatever he answers, you choose the other door.

You’ve used the limited predictability in the situation to your advantage.

Of course, another approach might be to ignore the guards, kick open both doors, and go through the one that you like.  Who said that you have to follow absurd rules anyway?

George M. Pomonik
Pomonik Consulting, Inc.
“Chaos Removal Services”SM

Copyright © George M. Pomonik, 2012. All rights reserved.

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