How Many Ways Can You Tie Shoe Laces?

Activity Aim

The aim of this activity is to get participants to think about how routine many of their choices are when it comes to offering customers solutions to problems and how by being creative they may be able to offer an alternative solution. The activity can also be used wherever you want to challenge people's ideas about the norm and what they have become accustomed to.


Participants consider how many different ways they think there are to lace a shoe with 12 eyelets (6 per side).

Setting Up the Activity

  1. It's important that you stress a 12 eyelet shoe so either have one on hand or use the image at the top of this post. This is because the answer you give as the solution to the activity is based on calculating a formula using 12 eyelets.
  2. Ask participants to work in pairs or individually.
  3. Give them 5 minutes to consider their answer.
  4. Ask each person or pair for their answer and then reveal the correct answer which is 43,200! For reference here's an article that gives further insight into this figure.
  5. Explain this is based on a formula which calculates the different possibilities. If you want to show them some examples here's a link to 52 different styles.
  6. Show them the image below to give them an idea of the possibilities.
  7. Use the discussion questions below to open up a discussion on the topic.

Discussion Questions

Here are a few questions you can use to develop further conversations after having stimulated participant thoughts with the question you initially asked.

  • Why did we come up with such a low number compared to the possibilities?
  • What does this say about our creativity?
  • What do we need to do to think more creatively?
  • What needs to change if we are to come up with different options for our customers?
  • How does it make the customer feel when we only give very limited options?
  • When we give customers options how relevant are they to them and how relevant are they to us?
  • Are our solutions customer oriented or business oriented?
  • How often do we revise the way we do things?
  • When was the last time we reviewed what we do to see if there is a better way for us and the customer?
  • Are we getting enough training on creativity?
  • How mundane have we become in what we do?
  • How do we compare to the best of our competition?


Set up: 5 minutes.

Brief in the activity: 2 minutes.

Activity: 10 minutes.

Feedback and Further Discussion: 15 minutes.

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