Thinkertoys: Creative-Thinking Techniques

Thinkertoys: a Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques by Michael MichalkoWell
At first the title makes me think of those crazy sticks and dowels from the 60’s that many of us played with as kids.  You remember Tinkertoys, right?

This book is stuffed with creative ideas to resolve problems and look at things from different perspectives or in creative new ideas.  Although, Michalko wrote it for mostly business audiences it parallels what we do in education very closely.  He says it is not be to read from cover to cover but I am on my second time through and have not turned into a toad yet.
The first time I grabbed up the book, I was fascinated with all of the line drawings in the book.  Being a visual learner I had to go through the whole book and analyze each image. Oh yes there is the famous old woman and young woman drawing,  but the author includes many more, actually too many to even count.  Even if you did not read one word out of the book, you would get ideas from the images included.
Each chapter has a little section called a “Blue Print” and it walks you through the steps of the idea addressed in the chapter.  That is helpful to me but..  sometimes I just want to experience the idea.
The other day at our Area Meeting we all took a blank piece of paper and closed our eyes and then drew some random lines.  From there we exchanged the papers and then looked at the sketches and tried to use our imaginations and add some lines to create something else.  It was amazing what each of us envisioned.  It was amazing how many different ideas each of us brought to the table.
The Three B’s is one technique that I am repeatedly using.  If you are working on a problem or innovative idea, sometimes you need time for the idea to incubate.  So you need to occupy your brain with other things, so the suggestion is to take a bus ride, take a bath, or go to bed (take a nap).  Then when you least expect it the subconscious develops a solution or plan.   Our logical side of the brain thinks that if I just spend more time in deep thought, I can figure it out. But the truth is, that your brain needs a break for it to digest and “incubate”.
“Think Bubbles” are a modified version of a concept map and are connected with different types of lines, in and out of the bubbles related to other bubbles.  Since I have used Smart Ideas, I would never do this on plain paper, it  would be much more visual and adaptable using Smart Ideas.  This is great for brainstorming but also for organizing thoughts and weighing pro’s and con’s.
Would I recommend this book?
Oh yes without a doubt.  Just the “Warming Up” chapter has enough ideas to help you with any group meeting or training session.  I keep revisiting this book because I remember bits and pieces of the wisdom that the author shared.
Stephanie Bengtson is an area specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

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