Thinkertoys: The Best Creative Problem-Solving Book of all Time

Chuck Frey


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During the last several decades, there have been hundreds of books published on the topic of creativity. But there’s one book I turn to again and again for creative inspiration: Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko.

I can still remember the first time I paged through a copy of Thinkertoys at a local bookstore. As I skimmed the amazing ideation techniques, I found myself exclaiming, “Woah!!” multiple times. I was stunned! I had heard of a handful of the brainstorming exercises Michalko described, but most were totally new to me.

It was as if I had accidentally discovered a rich vein of gold, shimmering before me.

Here was the master key to discovering a wealth of possibilities and opportunities using clever, creative mind exercises.

I had to have this book!

What riches await you within the pages of Thinkertoys?

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Thinkertoys contains an amazing variety of unconventional, ingenious techniques for approaching challenges from fresh perspectives and generating valuable ideas for solving them.

The techniques in this outstanding book are divided into linear techniques, which allow you to manipulate information in ways that will generate new ideas, and intuitive techniques, which show you how to find ideas by using your intuition and imagination. My favorite techniques include Tug of War, the Phoenix Checklist, Lotus Blossom and Hall of Fame.

Michalko presents these ideation exercises with engaging storytelling and whimsical illustrations that make it inviting and fun to try each technique. The book over-delivers on its essential promise:

“You will find yourself looking at the same information everyone else is looking at yet seeing something different. This new and different way of seeing things will lead you to new ideas and unique insights.”

Who can benefit from Thinkertoys?

Even if you don’t think you’re creative, you’re certain to get pulled into Thinkertoys’ gravitational pull of fun storytelling and clear how-to advice. Think of it as a toolkit that you — or anyone else — can use to stimulate your brain to generate novel ideas and solutions.

Its content is eminently approachable. This is not a dry treatise on the way the brain works, but rather a delightful and informative romp through the world’s best brainstorming and creative problem-solving techniques.

These qualities set it apart from all other creativity books, and explain why it has remained one of the world’s most popular creativity books since it was first published.

The ultimate brainstorming guide

Thinkertoys isn’t a book you read from cover to cover and then put on your bookshelf to gather dust. This is a reference guide to creative problem solving that you’re going to want to keep handy, so you can access its treasure trove of methods and exercises whenever you’re stuck for ideas.

I practice what I preach: I’ve downloaded it into the Kindle Reader on my smartphone so I can carry its thought-provoking techniques and exercises with me wherever I go!

In short, I strongly recommend that you make Thinkertoys the centerpiece of your creative arsenal. If you’re just starting to explore the power and potential of your creative muse, you’ll find it to be an ideal entry point into a world of amazing possibilities. If you’re a seasoned creative professional like me, you’ll still find plenty to inspire you and expand your thinking in new directions!


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