A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques





This book sits prominently on my bookshelf when working on a variety of problems – software development, film production, creative writing for scripts or novels, and developing opportunities in this media centric age. These books break open your mind from the restrictive fences imposed on our thinking by the conventional world that we are surrounded by. These fences need to be torn down. If you are an older person (probably older than 30!), then your thinking will become ossified. Just like using your muscles, you need to rework your brain and your thinking with effort to create opportunities and connections to emerging technologies and new developments. 17 of 18 people found the following review helpful.

Michael Mandaville



I’ve always thought of myself as highly creative, even iconoclastic (I have a background in avant-garde theater in New York City), so I was a bit miffed that there is a book containing most of the treasured techniques I thought I had invented. I can’t say enough good things about this book, I had “Aha!” moments about every second page.

I definitely subscribe to the author’s viewpoint that creativity is a talent that we are all born with, even if we don’t all know it; further, that there are definable, learnable skills that can help anyone develop their creative faculties. This book is crammed full of thought experiments and exercises that do just that–help you become reliably, even systematically, creative.

Stephen Francis



This book is full of easy to use ideas that are designed to get quick results. You don’t have to read the entire book or even an entire chapter to come away with many ideas that you and your group can implement easily. The author knows that often what is needed is a new way to look at an old situation. He offers many suggestions that will spark creativity. I found myself reading several sections and then adapting them on the fly for various meetings.

Richard Saeli



This is an awesome book to peruse. Very well done. It gives great tools that are lots of fun to work with. I found it a bit over-stimulating sometimes. My brain would not slow down if I worked with it to long. So I suggest it as a book to come back to periodically. One that can be used and enjoyed for many years.

Larry Hegedorn



I’ve always thought about writing a book about creativity that would make sense and encourage people to interpret their own experiences through their own eyes and not the eyes of others. This is the book I wish I had written. It has everything a book on creative thinking should have. I used the first edition in countless workshops with great success and am eagerly ready to start using some of the new brainstorming techniques in the second edition. The other book I highly recommend is Michael’s “Cracking Creativity,” which is, I think, the best book on creativity out there.

Jack Sweeney



Do you need any new ideas for practical designs? How about when something is wrong with your business and you cannot put your finger on it? Did you ever need to brainstorm but not have anyone else around? Have you ever been stuck with writer’s block and for the life of you could not get back to work? In other words, have you ever been stuck with any mental problem that you felt that you cannot solve? If this is the case I think you should have a look at Michael Michalko’s latest book, Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques.

Thinkertoys is a great play on words – anyone who grew up in the United States playing with Tinker Toys would not have a hard time remembering the name of this book. But beyond the title, Michael Michalko has done better than a yeoman’s job of cataloguing tried and true techniques and exercises that work individually and for groups. Not a left brained person you say? You don’t need to be. Not a right brained person? Again, you don’t need to be. These tools that Michael Michalko provides puts you in a position that the outcome will be the product of great creative thinking as long as you actually do the thinker work that goes along with the exercise. The entire book pushes the reader to think outside of his or her comfort zone when solving problems, creating ideas, etc. Some of these tools I have already been working on and implementing myself. Let me give you an example…

In addition to my other work I recently have become a monthly columnist with a magazine where I give advice based upon my knowledge and experience. But to be a columnist is very difficult in a way because you have to remain fresh – the material much be both focused and new every issue. Many regular columnists (and bloggers) use different methods to do this. For instance, Jack Welch actually goes on Twitter and asks followers to send him interesting questions or problems. As such I turned to Michalko’s book and found an exercise that really helped to generate ideas for the column. (If you want to know specifically which tool this was contact me through my website and I will give a full explanation). Because of this tool though I not only found enough ideas, but rather more than enough ideas. I have now written several columns in advance for the magazine and am pretty much finished with the entire year’s work. This is the kind of result you can get from sitting down and working with Thinkertoys – I can personally attest!

Also, Michael Michalko has a related product called Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck. I went out to my local bookstore and bought this card set. It is a great companion to Thinkertoys because each card is directly related to a principle or tool in Thinkertoys. So I carry this card deck with me now along with a list of issues I need to resolve when I travel. Sometimes I pull this book or these cards out because I have work to do and sometimes I do it because, dammit, it is just a good workout for the old noggin!

Gary Dale Cearley



Michael Michalko’s “Thinkertoys” is aimed at business people who want to stretch their creative muscles and come up with new and better ideas. Writers who are used to very playful approaches in their creativity books might find some of the business-speak off-putting, but the exercises are as valid and useful for them as they are for business folk or anyone else looking for a creative solution to a problem.

What amazes me most about this book is the sheer volume of ideas, exercises, suggestions, and entertaining anecdotes. Certainly it stands as a testament to the validity of Michalko’s work that he can come up with this many pages jam-packed full of idea-generating goodness.

Michalko believes we’re best served by blending the linear and intuitive when stimulating creativity, so he provides a great many Thinkertoys in both the linear and intuitive sections of this book and suggests that we go back and forth in our use of them.

Each Thinkertoy comes with a basic explanation of how it works, a blueprint for applying it to a wide variety of issues, and examples showing it in use. Many of these examples are real-world historical items that can give you great insight into how to apply seemingly abstract techniques to very real problems. There are more than 15 linear toys, each one a complete blueprint for brainstorming everything you need to tackle a problem.

The intuitive section includes more than ten toys, ranging from relaxation techniques to analogies, hypnogogic imagery to psychosynthesis. These are the ones that might feel a bit funny to the dyed-in-the-wool businessperson, but they’re well-formulated to walk you through the process and familiarize you with letting go.

The inclusion of both types of Thinkertoys is one of the things that makes this book truly stand out from others I’ve read. Most creativity books aimed at non-artistic types tend largely toward the linear exercises, while those aimed at artistic types tend largely toward the intuitive. It’s very handy to have such a blend of both in one place, with tips on integrating them.

The book includes four chapters on brainstorming in a team-based approach, which is particularly useful in a business setting. These chapters include not only specific exercises, but also plenty of tips on getting folks to loosen up and produce their best work in these settings.

Finally, the book wraps up with some material to help you evaluate the ideas you’ve come up with.

I highly recommend reading the introductions to all of the major sections of the book, then skipping around to use various Thinkertoys as the mood suits you.

My only (very minor) quibble with the book was its occasional lack of clarity. Now and then Michalko off-handedly described something in a manner such that I really had no idea what he meant. Luckily this tended to occur in his examples, or in his instructions for viewing an optical illusion, not in the instructions for the actual Thinkertoys.

This is an incredibly handy book. The anecdotes are entertaining, the exercises are inspiring, and the wide variety will keep you busy for a very long time.

H. Grove



The first edition of this book became our bible for our brainstorming sessions which yielded incredibly profitable ideas for our company. We are true believers and are already reading and using copies of the new edition, though for the life of me I can’t imagine how the book can be improved.

Carl Bennett



I bought this book for a class but I have used it in my personal and professional life as well. Very easy read and very easy to apply the concepts to get the creative ideas flowing. I have used a few techniques at work when asked to come with ideas to solve issues. Suggested to a few managers that they buy the book also.

Nikki Mason



This book has the potential to change the world! Anyone and everyone would benefit from reading this book immediately!

I have been an educator for the past 12 years, working with middle school, high school, and college level students. One of my biggest frustrations is the lack of critical and creative thinking that is fostered in the schools. Although these may be the most important skill to possess in this rapidly changing world, creativity and innovation skills are not emphasized enough in our school systems (if at all). There has been so much talk recently on Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” and the fact that we all have the ability to improve if we are willing to put forth the effort. Still, many people believe that “creativity” is not one of the those things we can improve at. Most people believe that you are either born creative, or you are not. This is simply NOT TRUE!!!

Michael Michalko is a brilliant author and creativity guru. In this book, Thinkertoys, Michalko provides a plethora of thought provoking stories, activities, and strategies that will instantly make you more creative, open-minded, innovative, and a believer that the growth mindset also applies to this topic. This book is an absolute masterpiece….. and it is my dream that the work of Michalko will make its way into the schools more and help to inspire students to be creative and innovative. Students deserve this! In the meantime I will provide a call to action that I promise will benefit you: BUY THIS BOOK! Read every page and apply the concepts to your life and passions. I guarantee it will make you a more creative, more well-rounded, more innovative person.

I am often asked what my favorite book is, which is a question that I do not like. I do not like it because I do not have a favorite book. I have a list of favorite books. The problem is that I feel at different stages of my life, that this list changes based on what my goals and passions are. Thinkertoys, however, has always been on my list of “favorite books”. To take the experience to the next level, I recommend purchasing the related ThinkPak deck to go along with it. I have this deck on me everywhere I go and have used its power many times to help solve problems and generate new ideas.

This book is an absolute gem….and I wish that everyone in the world would have the opportunity to read it (along with Michalko’s other books which are also wonderful: Creative Thinkering and Cracking Creativity). Buy this book and read it. Then read it again….and again….and again. It gets better every time!

Amazon Customer “@schink10”



The ideas work. Kind of like a workbook to see what works best for you. It provided immediate impact once I started using some of the concepts. As a President of a tech company I need to generate creative ideas, solutions and products all the time. This will make me a lot more effective.

Lawrence English



I read the introduction to this book and like my old piano with the broken damper, I felt vibrations throughout myself. The ideas and techniques are plentiful, almost too plentiful. I’ve taken to reading one chapter each couple of days so I can first let the techniques sink in and then write the ideas down in my journal which I keep open next to the chair I’m reading in. I’m on my second journal and I’ve got way more ideas than I’ll ever use. Some of them are crap but some are absolutly brilliant. Don’t buy this book just to read it. Buy it to do it!

Doc Whitney



Ever come up with an idea that just made you shiver in giddy excitement? I’m talking “hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck” type “whoa!” thrill? Give the brainstorming methods of this magnificent gem a chance and I can assure you this will be a part of your life.

I’ve been able to find a spattering of brainstorming methods on the internet. Heck, I even made a couple of my own. However, I was never really satisfied in that no single reference point occupied a dedicated space in my library. Nothing seemed worth it.

Let’s just say that this is no longer the case. Thinkertoys is a tool that any person, creative or ‘not’, can use and *will* produce usable results. An honest attempt at the exercises is necessary – you can’t go becoming a body-builder just by picking up a weight one time now can you? This book will take some time to go through if you take your time but it’s worth the effort.

Add this to your library, tab/flag the Thinkertoy ‘blueprints’, and proceed to have a great innovation tool by your side at all times.

This book makes my unconscious mind shout for joy. For that, Mr. Michalko, I thank you many times over.

Richard N. Stephenson



This is one of my top ten books, period. It’s a book that is hard to describe, because I don’t know of anything else like it out there. Essentially, it is a book that boils the art of creativity down into exercises that anyone can use to fuel their own creativity.

To take a subject that is so high-concept and write a book with concrete tools that anyone can use is not easy. Michalko has written a book that will change the way you think, no matter what walk of life you come from. You will be smarter after reading and implementing this book, even if you just use one or two of the more than 40 tools he gives for creative thinking.

I’ve owned this book for a couple of years and am still not all the way through it, mainly because after each chapter there is so much information to digest and work on. Just using the very first technique in the book I was able to quickly come up with hundreds of ideas; ideas that never would have crossed my mind without this book.

To put it as simply as possible . . . Buy It.

Bradley Bevers



So I was reading one of the many great books by Jeffrey Gitomer. In his books about Sales and the one about Yes!Attitude, he stresses the importance of exercising the mind and being creative in your approach to relationships, both professional and personal.

And one of this top, oft repeated recommendations is Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. It’s clear within the first few pages that Michalko was challenging me to step out of my comfortable protective shell of assumptions about the world around me and see it in whole new ways.

The combination of Gitomer’s motivation to master a positive attitude with Michalko’s advice on creativity have transformed my life.

John Daneneau



I love this book and it really does help you think in ways you may not have before. I enjoy the exercises (of which there are a lot so if you aren’t going to do them, then don’t bother buying this book) and I have learned a lot of how I think and what I can do to view things on a different level. I have always considered myself a creative person and a good problem-solver, but this book helps me awaken senses and perceive things in a whole new light.

German Vasquez Jr.



This is a must read. Great mind opening experience to say the very least. I have applied some of the great tips in this book to my present job and continue to reap the rewards. This book screams out to all walks of life, however, if you’re in sales then you need to get your hands on a copy NOW!

John Elkason



How can I say how much this book has impacted my business life and my personal life? My employees have created ideas using this book that have made this year incredibly profitable. This book has made us believers that we are all creative. We just didn’t know how to think in a different way. I also use the techniques to come up with original ideas for birthdays, anniversaries and so on. Without a doubt, this book is the best purchase I’ve made in decades.

Ernie Don