Category: Articles and Techniques (page 16 of 22)



Leonardo da Vinci was the first creative thinker who talked and wrote about the importance of introducing random and chance events to produce variation in his thinking patterns. Almost with apology, since it seemed so obvious to him, he advised people to contemplate the walls, clouds, pavements, etc., with the idea of looking for patterns and images to conceptually blend with your thoughts. Leonardo da Vinci wrote how he got his creative inspiration in his notebooks in a mirror-image reversed script “secret” handwriting which he taught himself. To read his handwriting, you have to use a mirror. It was his way of protecting his thinking strategy from prying eyes. He suggested that you will find inspiration for marvelous ideas if you look for random subjects to conceptually blend with your challenge. He would gaze at the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or the shape of clouds or patterns in mud or in similar places. He would imagine seeing trees, battles, landscapes, figures with lively movements, etc., and then excite his mind by conceptually blending the subjects and events he imagined and his subject. Da Vinci would occasionally throw a paint-filled sponge against the wall and contemplate the random stains and what they might represent. Continue reading



THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: Mary spends her first 20 years locked up in a large room. All her reading materials are about chocolate. She watches video lectures about chocolate every day. She learns about the importance of cacao, and its uses throughout history. Chemists teach her about the ingredients of chocolate and how different processes can vary its chemistry. She watches videos of the world’s leading nutritionists lecture on the makeup and value of chocolate. Mary memorizes the benefits of eating chocolate versus the drawbacks. Videos of historians teach her how ancient people discovered cacao and about the many uses they found for it throughout history, e.g., how chocolate was even used for currency. Mary learns how soldiers depended on chocolate for energy during combat and how they used it to befriend children of different cultures. She learns how “chocolate” symbolized American abundance to poverty stricken peoples of other countries. Sociologists exclaim how chocolate is used for gifts and rewards. They give examples of it being gifted in various forms on major holidays and anniversaries. At the end of her studies, she writes her dissertation on chocolate and is awarded a Ph.D. with honors. There is only one thing she has never done. She has never made, touched, smelled or tasted chocolate.

After she receives her degree, a little girl asked her if she likes chocolate. How does Mary answer?

What kind of understanding of chocolate can Mary have if she never actually made, touched, smelled or tasted chocolate? What good is what we know about chocolate if we’ve never made or tasted it? To know what chocolate is, you have to make it and taste it. You have to act. What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of no consequence. The only consequence is what we do. Continue reading

The Art of Framing Challenges Creatively


While it seems clear that Aristotle’s strategies were responsible for producing some of the greatest advances in human thought, modern society and education have tended to focus more on the discoveries resulting from these strategies than on the mental processes through which the discoveries were made. Aristotle believed that words and chains of words that we use in framing a problem play a significant role in the way we approach problems.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: The figure is a square defined by four dots. A square is a rectangle with four equal sides and four 90-degree angles. Please move 2 dots and create a square twice as big as the one defined by the dots as they are presently arranged. (60 second time limit).  The solution for this thought experiment is at the end of the article.

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Perception Constructs Rather than Records Reality

Some scientists visited a New Guinea tribe that believed their world ended at the nearby river. After several months one of the scientists had to cross the river to leave. When the scientist was safely across he waved, but the tribesmen did not respond. They said they didn’t see him as nothing existed beyond the end of the world. Their entrenched patterns of belief about where the world ended distorted their perception of reality.

The New Guinea people disregard things which do not fit into the way they were taught to view reality and make them into something consistent with their beliefs. They see what they expect to see. Continue reading

A Review of Creative Thinkering from StrategyDriven


Recommended Resource – Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work

by Michael Michalko

About the Reference

Creative Thinkering by Michael Michalko provides readers with actionable methods to tap into and broaden their natural creativity. Aimed at those who question their imaginative abilities, Michael reveals a systematic approach to generating new ideas through the association of two or more dissimilar subjects; resulting in the generation of entirely new products, services, and methods.

Throughout Creative Thinkering, Michael provides detail rich examples of his method’s application as well as challenging the reader to develop his or her own capabilities through numerous thought experiments. These elements transform this book from one that simply provides a method into one that is a teaching manual; helping even the most rigid of thinkers expand their creative horizons.

Benefits of Using this Reference

Contributors like Creative Thinkering because of its immediately implementable methods for expanding one’s creative output. Michael clearly illustrates that anyone can be highly creative and through his plentiful thought experiments convinces even the most rigid thinkers that they too can be the source of highly original ideas. In a fast moving world that requires continuous adaptation, Creative Thinkering can help arm any professional with a crucial skill needed to remain competitive.

Contributors have long benefited from Michael’s insights on creativity. We thoroughly enjoyed his earlier book, Thinkertoys, and have applied the methods he prescribes therein to our work almost every day. If we had one criticism of Creative Thinkering it would be that Michael’s new book is not as ‘fun’as his last  – but it is by all accounts just as valuable.

Overcoming ones creative doubts is a key ingredient to taking the actions necessary to remain competitive in our highly innovative and rapidly changing world. Michael’s book provides those with such doubts a clear method for dealing with their rigidness and conceiving the truly unique; making Creative Thinkering a StrategyDriven recommended read.

Your Habits Determine Your Character

Many of us have the habit of not paying attention to what we encounter on a daily basis. This is a picture of a person that you have seen hundreds of time wearing an Elvis Presley wig. Can you identify the person?



Habits stabilize our behavior.  They allow us to act efficiently and concentrate on the tasks we choose to focus on.  If you had to ponder which shoe to put on first when you got out of bed, then how to brush your teeth, hold your comb, dress yourself and so on, you probably wouldn’t have time to do much of anything else.

But habits also often box us in.  Face to face with an obstacle, your mind may fill with the strategies you always try — and only those.  Used to merely exchanging pleasantries with your gasoline station attendant, you may never discover he grew up in Bora Bora, a marvelous new destination for your adventure travel business.  Stuck in the notion that food is for eating, you miss the chance to notice that the chef’s arrangement of food on your plate points the way toward a better design of your company brochure. Continue reading

Cracking Creativity book review


Cracking creativity

“Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius” by Michael Michalko is a roadmap for practical creativity.

Edward De Bono is the most famous author in the field of creative thinking with more than 30 books. But with one book Michalko provides the best book in the field of creative thinking. His first book, “Thinkertoys,” is the best resource for creative thinking techniques.

How do geniuses come up with ideas? What is common to the thinking style that produced both the Mona Lisa and the theory of relativity? What characterizes the thinking strategies of the Edisons, Mozarts and Picassos of history? Michalko’s new book “Cracking Creativity” tries to answer these questions.

In the first part of his book, Michalko presents the strategies of geniuses who look at problems in unconventional ways.

The first strategy is knowing how to see. Genius often comes from finding a new perspective that no one else has taken.

The second strategy is making your thought visible. The explosion of creativity in the Renaissance was intimately tied to the recording and conveying of a vast amount of knowledge in a parallel language; a language of drawings, graphs, and diagrams — as in, for instance, the renowned diagrams of da Vinci and Galileo.

In Part II, “Thinking what no one else is thinking,” Michalko presents seven creative thinking strategies that geniuses use to generate their breakthrough ideas and creative solutions.

Thinking fluently and productively is an extraordinary way to improve creativity. Geniuses like Edison used personal quotas for creative ideas. Edison’s personal quota was one minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months. Bach, Mozart and T.S. Elliot were also productive people who used time efficiently.

Making novel combinations and connecting the unconnected are at the heart of creativity. Creativity is the ability to combine two different things in an extraordinary way. Artists and advertising gurus frequently combine ordinary things in extraordinary ways. The Coca-Cola commercial with two polar bears is one of the most well-known examples of this.

Looking at other worlds is another strategy for creative thinking. Michalko writes that Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius, believing that the individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence was a person with special gifts. Bediü Zaman Said Nursi was the leading Islamic thinker who used metaphors to explain Islamic concepts.

Finding what you are not looking for is the accidental way of thinking creatively. The history of inventions is full of accidental discoveries. Psychologist B.F. Skinner emphasized this principle of scientific methodology: when you find something interesting, drop everything else and study it. People have millions of wonderful accidents that provide insight but they don’t focus on what they experience and lose these opportunities.

The last strategy Michalko presents is awakening the collaborative spirit. The collective intelligence of a group is larger than the intelligence of an individual. In a business setting people should establish dialogue rather than fight with each other.

Cracking Creativity is full of interesting stories of geniuses, as well as practical techniques for creativity. It is a guide for generating new ideas.



Once we have settled on a perspective, we close off but one line of thought. Certain kinds of ideas occur to us, but only those kinds and no others. Have you ever looked closely at the wheels on a railroad train? They are flanged. That is, they have a lip on the inside to prevent them from sliding off the track. Originally train wheels were not flanged–instead, the railroad tracks were. Because the problem of railroad safety had been expressed as: “How can the tracks be made safer for trains to ride on?” hundreds of thousands of miles of track were manufactured with an unnecessary steel lip. Only when the problem was redefined as: “How can the wheels be made to secure the track more securely?” was the flanged wheel invented. Continue reading



By age sixteen, George Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English translation of the French rules appeared in 1640, and are ascribed to Francis Hawkins the twelve-year-old son of a doctor.


These were the rules that governed Washington’s behavior and helped to mould the man who attracted the love, loyalty and respect of all who served with him during the American Revolution and his Presidency. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated and appropriate to a time of powdered wigs  and quills, but they reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find in our political leaders these days. The rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of their own self-interests that we find so prevalent with our politicians today. They represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together. These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem. Continue reading

Why the Geese Did Not Fly


A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it.  Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese learned to always do the same things over and over and to live orderly and predictable lives with no surprises. This primarily meant never take a risk or do anything new. Over time the geese became so lazy they even forgot how to fly. They were safe and secure in their barnyard where everything is familiar and nothing ever changes. In short, they always did what they always did and always got what they always got.

One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. “My fellow geese,” he would say, “can you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence? Don’t you realize you can fly and change the way you live? You were all born as spontaneous and natural fliers. All you need do is live the way you were meant to live and fly.” Continue reading

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