What number did you have in mind?

The executive search committee had narrowed down the candidates for the company’s next president to four people.  The final four:  a high school algebra teacher, an attorney, an engineer, and a CPA.

The subcommittee had one final question to distinguish between the four. With everyone gathered together, they asked “What is 2 and 2?”

The engineer pulled out her smart phone and started tapping rapidly.

The algebra teacher immediately raised his hand and after a nod from the committee chair boldly said “Four.”

When asked for her thoughts, the attorney said “There is ambiguity in the question. If we infer this is intended to be a mathematical operation, then the next step is the addition process of two plus two, which we can stipulate equals four. In the alternative, if we infer this is a linear operation, then one would place the numeral 2 immediately after another numeral 2, which give an answer of 22. Absent clarification from you and further research on my part, I am unable to give a definitive opinion.”

The committee chair thanked the attorney for her response, then asked the engineer for her idea. The engineer said “After performing research of the relevant literature and developing several spreadsheets, I have definitively concluded the answer is 4.  If I may have your e-mail address, I will forward you my research and the draft of a paper I plan to submit to my industry’s leading trade journal.”

The chair provided an e-mail address to use, then pointed to the CPA inviting his thoughts.

The CPA, an experienced auditor who had recently retired from one of the big accounting firms, smiled politely and said “What number did you have in mind?”

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