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A true story, happened in 1892 at Stanford University:

An 18-year-old student was struggling to pay his fees. He was an orphan, and not knowing where to turn for money, he came up with a bright idea. He and a friend decided to host a musical concert on campus to raise money for their education.

They reached out to the great pianist Ignacy J. Paderewski. His manager demanded a guaranteed fee of $2000 for the piano recital. A deal was struck and the boys began to work to make the concert a success.

The big day arrived. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell enough tickets. The total collection was only $1600. Disappointed, they went to Paderewski and explained their plight. They gave him the entire $1600, plus a check for the balance $400. They promised to honor the check at the soonest possible.

“No,” said Paderewski. “This is not acceptable.” He tore up the check, returned the $1600 and told the two boys: “Here’s the $1600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for your fees. And just give me whatever is left”. The boys were surprised, and thanked him profusely. It was a small act of kindness. But it clearly marked out Paderewski as a great human being.

Why should he help two people he did not even know? We all come across situations like these in our lives. And most of us only think “If I help them, what would happen to me?” The truly great people think, “If I don’t help them, what will happen to them?” They don’t do it expecting something in return. They do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do.

Paderewski later went on to become the Prime Minister of Poland. He was a great leader, but unfortunately when the World War began, Poland was ravaged. There were more than 1.5 million people starving in his country, and no money to feed them. Paderewski did not know where to turn for help. He reached out to the US Food and Relief Administration for help.

The head there was a man called Herbert Hoover — who later went on to become the US President. Hoover agreed to help and quickly shipped tons of food grains to feed the starving Polish people.

A calamity was averted. Paderewski was relieved. He decided to go across to meet Hoover and personally thank him. When Paderewski began to thank Hoover for his noble gesture, Hoover quickly interjected and said, “You shouldn’t be thanking me Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college. I was one of them.”

Instead of delightfully celebrating on all the evil people do in the world, wouldn’t it be great if the mass media, instead, reported on all the good people do. Maybe then social media would prime people to go out and do good instead of destroying and killing.



16 Ways to Jump-start Creativity

Simply put, the key to increasing creativity in any organization is to make it start acting like a creative organization. Suppose you wanted to be an artist: You would begin behaving like an artist by painting every day. You may not become another Vincent Van Gogh, but you’ll become much more of an artist than someone who has never tried. Similarly, you and your organization will become more creative if you start acting the part. The following are 16 suggestions to encourage you and your colleagues to start becoming more creative today.

Ask each person to try to improve one aspect of their job each day, focusing on the areas within their control. At the end of the day, people should meet and ask each other what they did differently and better than it was the day before.

Put up a bulletin board in a central area and encourage people to use it to brainstorm ideas. Write a theme or problem on a colored card and place it in the center of the board. Provide pieces of white paper on which people can write their ideas to post on the board. E.g. suppose you have difficulty closing a particular sale. You could describe the sale situation on a colored card, post it on the brainstorming board and ask people to post their ideas and suggestions.

Have a monthly “idea lottery,” using a roll of numbered tickets. Each time a person comes up with a creative idea, he or she receives a ticket. At the end of each month, share the ideas with the staff and then draw a number from a bowl. If the number on anyone’s ticket corresponds to the number drawn, he or she gets a prize. If no one wins, double the prize for the next month.

Provide a special area for people to engage in creative thinking. Stock the area with books, videos on creativity, as well as learning games and such toys as beanbags and modeling clay. You might even decorate the area with pictures of employees as infants to suggest the idea that we’re all born spontaneous and creative.

Ask people to display items on their desks that represent their own personal visions of creativity in business. For example, a crystal ball might represent a view toward future markets, a bottle of Heinz catsup might represent a personal goal of 57 new ideas on how to cut expenses, and a set of jumper cables might symbolize the act of jump-starting your creative juices to get more sales.

Encourage weekly lunch-time meeting of three to five employees to engage in creative thinking. Ask meeting participants to read a book on creativity; each person can read a different chapter and share ways of applying creative thinking to the organization. Invite creative business people from the community to speak to the group. You could ask them for ideas on how to become more creative in your business.

Present each person with a notebook. Call the notebook the “Bright Idea Notebook,” and ask everyone to write three ideas in the notebook every day for one month on how to improve your business. At the end of the month, collect all the notebooks and categorize the ideas for further discussion.

Make idea generating fun. Have a “Stupid Idea” week and stage a contest for the dumbest ideas. Post entries on a bulletin board and conduct an awards ceremony with a prize. You’ll enjoy the camaraderie and may find that the stupid ideas stimulate good ones.

Establish a “creative-idea” committee made up of volunteers. The goals of the committee should be to elicit, discuss, and implement employee’s ideas. The committee can record the number of ideas on a thermometer-type graph. The company should recognize and reward people according to the quantity and quality of their creative contributions.

Turn an office hallway into an Employee Hall of Fame. Post photographs of those whose ideas are implemented along with a paragraph about the person, the idea, and its impact on the company.

When brainstorming in a group, try dividing the group into left-brain (rational) thinkers and right-brain (intuitive) thinkers. Ask the left-brainers to come up with practical, conventional and logical ideas; ask the right-brainers to come up with far-out, unconventional and nonlogical ideas. Then combine the groups and share the ideas.

Thomas Edison guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. His own personal quota was one minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months. A way to guarantee creativity is to give each employee an idea quota of, say, five new ideas a week.

Require everyone to bring one new idea as their ticket of admission to any group meeting. The idea should focus on some aspect of their job and how they can improve what they do.

CHANGE “Yes, but …” TO “Yes, and …”
Someone offers an idea in a meeting, and many of us are tempted to say “Yes, but …” To change this mind set , whenever someone says “Yes, but …” require the person to change “Yes, but …” to “Yes, and …” and continue where the last person left off.

Employees shouldn’t waste time thinking of reasons why something can’t work or can’t be done. Instead, they should think about ways to make something work, and then get it done. Ask employees to think of three job-related goals, targets, or tasks they think can’t be accomplished. Then ask them to figure out three ways to accomplish each of them. Then do the same thing yourself.

Jonas Salk, developer of the vaccine that eradicated polio, made it a standard practice to assemble men and women from different domains to his group sessions. He felt this practice helped him bring out new ideas that could not arise in the minds of individuals who were from the same domain. Invite people from other departments to your brainstorming sessions and ask them how they would solve your problems.

Lastly, don’t forget to thank people for their ideas. Design your own “Thank You For Your Great Idea” cards and distribute them freely to contributors. Ask the CEO to sign each card with a personal message. Stock up on instant lottery cards and include one or two in each card to show your appreciation.

(Michael Michalko is the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses;  Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.


Creativity special: Ten top tips

Tom Ward senior research fellow in the Center for Creative Media at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and editor of the Journal of Creative Behavior

“Merge two previously separate concepts that are in conflict with one another. For example, combinations such as ‘friendly enemy’ and ‘healthful illness’. The more discrepant the concepts, the more likely they are to result in novel properties.”

Margaret Atwood novelist, Toronto

“I have a great big cupboard stuffed with ideas and when I want one I open the door and take the first one that falls out. Alternatively, if you want an idea, do the following. Close your eyes, put your left hand on the ground, raise your right hand into the air. You are now a conductor. The ideas will pass through you. Sooner or later one will pass through your brain. It never fails, though the waiting times vary and sometimes lunch intervenes.”

Lee Smolin theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario

“The main ingredients in science are intensive immersion in a problem, fanatical desire to solve it (big problems are rarely solved by accident), familiarity with previous attempts leading to an original critique of where they went wrong, reckless disregard for what other experts think, and the courage to overcome your own doubts and hesitations, which are much scarier than anything anyone else can say because you know best how vulnerable your new idea is.”

Tracey Emin artist, London

“Get a really good part-time job, preferably to do with something you like. For example, if you like reading, work in a book shop and do lots of evening classes.”

Lisa Randall professor of physics at Harvard University

“Think about the big problems while working on the small ones and vice versa. A larger perspective can be the best guide when approaching a detailed problem. On the other hand, details can reveal profound insights about larger questions. Listen carefully and pay close attention. You might learn more than people, or the objects you’re studying, superficially reveal.”   

Dean Simonton professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis

“Know your stuff: creativity requires expertise; but don’t know it too well: overspecialisation puts blinders on. Imagine the impossible: many breakthrough ideas at first seem outright crazy; but you have to be able to impose your idea: crazy ideas remain crazy if they cannot survive critical evaluation. Finally, be persistent: big problems are seldom solved on the first try, or the second, or the third; but remember to take a break: you may be barking up the wrong tree, so incubate a bit to get a fresh start.”

Allan Snyder director of Centre for the Mind, Australian National University, Canberra, and University of Sydney

“Creativity demands that you leave your comfort zone, that you continually challenge yourself and be prepared to confront conventional wisdom. When you become an expert, move on. Especially, engage in that for which you have not been schooled.”

Robert Stickgold associate professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

“Creativity is fostered by a particular, if poorly understood, brain state. It often seems to be induced when you feel under pressure to perform and at the same time free to let your mind wander. Some authors go to the mountains or the seashore, others take a walk in a park. But this might be easiest to do by simply going to bed. As our brain cycles through REM and non-REM sleep, it appears to go in and out of this state.”

F. David Peat author and physicist, director of the Pari Centre for New Learning near Siena, Italy

“Hold the intention or the question. Trust it and it will it happen. Leave a space – daydream, relax, doze…you’ll be amazed because you are not doing it.”

Alan Lightman novelist and physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Creativity is enhanced by having a prepared mind, and then being stuck on a problem. I also need a space of silence and calm, where I am free from distractions.”

About Michael Michalko

Michael has worked with clients in countries around the world. Some of Michael’s creative-thinking techniques that were refined by his government and corporate practice were published in his best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), which the Wall Street Journal reported “will change the way you think.” CEO-READ listed Thinkertoys as one of the 100 Best Business Books of all Time. Women In Business lauded it as “one of the most important business titles of the decade.” USA said “believe it or not, this wonderful book will have you challenging the seemingly impossible every day.” Executive Book Summaries praised it by saying, “What we need is a compendium of ways to solve problems. And that’s exactly what you get in Thinkertoys.” and Entrepreneur acclaimed it as “required reading for anyone in business.” Success Magazine awarded Thinkertoys with a Gold Medal for being “one of the best of the best business books.” The medal is awarded to books that have that made a major impact on readers who say they’ve experienced a change — an improvement in their lives and businesses.

He is also the author of ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), a novel creative-thinking tool that is designed to facilitate brainstorming sessions; Cracking Creativity (The Secrets Of Creative Genius) which describes the common thinking strategies creative geniuses have used in the sciences, art, and industry throughout history and shows how we can apply them to become more creative in our business and personal lives. Michael’s newest book is Creative Thinkering (Putting your Imagination to Work) which demonstrates how to combine and synthesize totally dissimilar subjects into new and exciting original ideas.

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

Chuck Frey



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?

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!

One of the 100 Best Business Books for All Time

To Be or Not to Be…Creative

Reported by CEO READ

While readying The 100 Best Business Books for All Time for it’s updated paperback release this fall, we spent some extra time with the books we featured briefly in our Takeaway chapter of the book, expanding the reviews to include more detail. It was especially fun for us to revisit Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko not only because some of the content is reminiscent of those variety puzzle magazines found in drugstores that we all secretly and not-so-secretly love, but because of it’s applicability. Just as the subtitle–A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques–says, Thinkertoys can help those aforementioned folks who aren’t the creative type learn how to be creative. That’s the important word here: learn. No, not everyone is creative. But creativity, according to Michalko, can be self-taught, cultivated, discovered. You can choose to BE creative.

And Michalko knows a thing or two about getting creativity-resistant organizations to change. His website bio explains:

As an officer in the United States Army, Michael organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics in Frankfurt, Germany, to research, collect, and categorize all known inventive-thinking methods. His international team applied those methods to various NATO military, political, and social problems and in doing so it produced a variety of breakthrough ideas and creative solutions to new and old problems. After leaving the military, Michael facilitated CIA think tanks using his creative thinking techniques.

Just a visit to his website, which yields an absolutely stunning assortment of articles, interviews, resources: a veritable practicum. You can also follow Michalko via his blog on Psychology Today. But perhaps his work is best appreciated in book form, where you can scribble in the margins, and bend the pages, and carry it over to your coworker’s cubicle to test them on one of his thought experiments. Yes, make sure you have a pen when you are opening up one of Michalko’s books, and we are all very lucky that he has a new one available for us to learn from, titled Creative Thinkering.

In Creative Thinkering, Michalko challenges us to put our imaginations to work and believes with a great passion that everyone is creative. Or should be. Or can be. It is as though we’ve unlearned creativity. “We’ve been educated to process information based on what has happened in the past, what past thinkers thought, what exists now. Once we think we know how to get the answer, based on what we have been taught, we stop thinking,” he explains in the Introduction, and then immediately proceeds to challenge the way you think with some mind-bending games.

In this new book, Michalko wants to teach us conceptual blending, “which is the act of combining, or relating, unrelated items in order to solve problems, create new ideas, and even rework old ideas….It is no coincidence that the most creative and innovative people throughout history have been experts at forcing new mental connections via the conceptual blending of unrelated objects.” And once again, the material he presents throughout the book is entertaining but also so very do-able. Through the exercises and insights in his books, Michalko provides the material to train even the most creatively-blind how to open his or her eyes to their own and others’ creative ideas.



The Japanese monkey, Macaca Fuscata, had been observed in the wild for a period of over 30 years. In 1952, on the island of Koshima, scientists were providing monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkey liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes, but they found the dirt unpleasant, so they ignored the potatoes and ate other vegetables.

An 18-month-old female named Imo discovered she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way and they taught their mothers too.This cultural innovation was gradually picked up by various monkeys before the eyes of the scientists. Between 1952 and 1958 all the young monkeys learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable. Only the parents who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes and paid no attention to what the other monkeys were doing.

Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes — the exact number is not known. Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let’s further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes. Then an extraordinary event occurred. By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough. But wait, something even more surprising happened. The scientists discovered that the behavior of washing the sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea. Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes. All the monkeys everywhere suddenly realized how to make the potatoes palatable by washing them.

Incredibly, it seems, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind. Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people. But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone.

The central idea is that when enough individuals in a population adopt a new idea or behavior, there occurs an ideological breakthrough that allows this new awareness to be communicated directly from mind to mind without the connection of external experience and then all individuals in the population spontaneously adopt it. “It may be that when enough of us hold something to be true, it becomes true for everyone.”

This seems to confirm the concept of Carl Jung’s collective unconscious, and the parallel stories from biologists’ morphogenetic fields. Archetypes, patterns, or fields that are themselves without mass or energy, could shape the individual manifestations of mass and energy. The more widespread these fields are, the greater their influence on the physical level of reality.

Is it too much of an imaginative strain to interpret significant events in history as the result of spontaneous transmission of ideas? Could this, for example, explain the fall of the Roman Empire when its citizens became rampantly corrupt? Karl Marx’s overthrow of the Czar when the Russians lost faith in the integrity of their government? The rise of Adolph Hitler when the Germans lost their belief in democratic reforms? The defeatism exhibited by the French in WWII because of their losses suffered in WWI? Is this what happened during the Viet Nam war? In the beginning of the war there was almost universal support for the war, but over time opposition to the war grew to the point when suddenly the population almost spontaneously began to demand an end to the war.

I’ve observed a predominance of liberalism in the universities and, consequently a growing dominance of liberalism in government, education, media, religion, community organizers, law and labor. Is it possible that the universities have spawned the spontaneous transmission of liberalism that is transforming America from free enterprise and personal responsibility into the passive acceptance of big government controlling every aspect of our lives? Has the population reached the tipping point?


(Michael Michalko is the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses; and Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck. His new book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work has just been released.


We have not been taught how to think for ourselves, we have been taught what to think based on what past thinkers thought. We are taught to think reproductively, not productively. What most people call thinking is simply reproducing what others have done in the past. We have been trained to seek out the neural path of least resistance, searching out responses that have worked in the past, rather than approach a problem on its own terms.

Educators discourage us from looking for alternatives to prevailing wisdom. When confronted with a problem, we are taught to analytically select the most promising approach based on past history, excluding all other approaches and then to work logically within a carefully defined direction towards a solution. Instead of being taught to look for possibilities, we are taught to look for ways to exclude them. This kind of thinking is dehumanizing and naturalizes intellectual laziness which promotes an impulse toward doing whatever is easiest or doing nothing at all. It’s as if we entered school as a question mark and graduated as a period.

Once when I was a young student, I was asked by my teacher, “What is one-half of thirteen?” I answered six and one half or 6.5. However, I exclaimed there are many different ways to express thirteen and many different to halve something. For example, you can spell thirteen, then halve it (e.g., thir/teen). Now half of thirteen becomes four (four letters in each half). Or, you can express it numerically as 13, and now halving 1/3 gives you 1 and 3. Another way to express a 13 is to express it in Roman numerals as XIII and now halving XI/II gives you XI and II, or eleven and two. Consequently one-half of thirteen is now eleven and two. Or you can even take XIII, divide it horizontally in two (XIII) and half of thirteen becomes VIII or 8.

My teacher scolded me for being silly and wasting the class’s time by playing games. She said there is only one right answer to the question about thirteen. It is six and one-half or 6.5. All others are wrong. I’ll never forget what she said “When I ask you a question, answer it the way you were taught or say you don’t know. If you want to get a passing grade, stop making stuff up.”

When we learn something, we are taught to program it into our brain and stop thinking about or looking for alternatives. Over time these programs become stronger and stronger, not only cognitively but physiologically as well. Even when we actively seek information to test our ideas to see if we are right, we usually ignore paths that might lead us to discover alternatives. Following is an interesting experiment, which was originally conducted by the British psychologist Peter Wason that demonstrates this attitude. Wason would present subjects with the following triad of three numbers in sequence.

2       4       6

He would then ask subjects to write other examples of triads that follow the number rule and explain the number rule for the sequence. The subjects could ask as many questions as they wished without penalty.

He found that almost invariably most people will initially say, “4, 6, 8,” or “20, 22, 24,” or some similar sequence. And Watson would say, yes, that is an example of a number rule. Then they will say, “32, 34, 36″ or “50, 52, 54″ and so on– all numbers increasing by two. After a few tries, and getting affirmative answers each time, they are confident that the rule is numbers increasing by two without exploring alternative possibilities.

Actually, the rule Wason was looking for is much simpler– it’s simply numbers increasing. They could be 1, 2, 3 or 10, 20, 40 or 400, 678, 10,944. And testing such an alternative would be easy. All the subjects had to say was 1, 2, 3 to Watson to test it and it would be affirmed. Or, for example, a subject could throw out any series of numbers, for example, 5, 4, and 3 to see if they got a positive or negative answer. And that information would tell them a lot about whether their guess about the rule is true.

The profound discovery Wason made was that most people process the same information over and over until proven wrong, without searching for alternatives, even when there is no penalty for asking questions that give them a negative answer. In his hundreds of experiments, he, incredibly, never had an instance in which someone spontaneously offered an alternative hypothesis to find out if it were true. In short, his subjects didn’t even try to find out if there is a simpler or even, another, rule.

On the other hand, creative thinkers have a vivid awareness of the world around them and when they think, they seek to include rather than exclude alternatives and possibilities. They have a “lantern awareness” that brings the whole environment to the forefront of their attention. So, by the way, do children before they are educated. This kind of awareness is how you feel when you visit a foreign country; you focus less on particulars and experience everything more globally because so much is unfamiliar.

I am reminded of a story about a student who protested when his answer was marked wrong on a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen. The imaginative student was purportedly Niels Bohr who years later was co-winner of the Nobel Prize for physics.

In answer to the question, “How could you measure the height of a skyscraper using a barometer?” he was expected to explain that the barometric pressures at the top and the bottom of the building are different, and by calculating, he could determine the building’s height. Instead, he answered, “You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building.

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case.

The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem, it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer that showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.

For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought. The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn’t make up his mind which to use. On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

“Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer.”

“Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.”

“But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T =2 pi sqr root (I /9).”

“Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up.”

“If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.”

“But, the easiest way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper’.”

The obvious moral here is that education should not consist merely of stuffing students’ heads full of information and formulae to be memorized by rote and regurgitated upon demand, but of teaching students how to think and solve problems using whatever tools are available. In the mangled words of a familiar phrase, students should be educated in a way that enables them to figure out their own ways of catching fish, not simply taught a specific method of fishing.

Find Out More about Your Personality

 This is a fun thing to do with a crowd of people, perhaps a dinner party.  There are only 3 questions and the answers will surprise you.

1. Put the following 5 animals in the order of your preference.

  • Cow
  • Tiger
  • Sheep
  • Horse
  • Pig 

2. Write one word that describes each one of the following:

  • Dog
  • Cat
  • Rat
  • Coffee
  • Sea 

3. Think of someone, (who also knows you and is important to you), that you can relate him or her to the following colors. Do not use the same person twice.

  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
  • White
  • Green 

Finished? Please be sure your answers are what you REALLY feel… Last chance…Scroll down for explanations.

























Question # 1 – The order that you choose defines the priorities in your life.

  Cow: signifies CAREER

  Tiger: signifies PRIDE

  Sheep: signifies LOVE

  Horse: signifies FAMILY

  Pig: signifies MONEY

Question # 2 – Descriptions

  Your description of dog implies YOUR OWN PERSONALITY.

  Your description of cat implies THE PERSONALITY OF YOUR PARTNER.

  Your description of rat implies THE PERSONALITY OF YOUR ENEMIES.

  Your description of coffee is HOW YOU INTREPRET SEX.

  Your description of the sea implies YOUR OWN LIFE.

Question #3 – Colors

  Yellow: Someone you will never forget.

  Orange: Someone you consider your true friend.

  Red: Someone that you really love.

  White: Your twin soul.

  Green: Someone that you will remember for the rest of your life.


Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.


During a campaign speech President Biden labeled republicans as fascist destructive people. His disgust of a large portion of America’s population shook my faith and reminded me of the single most important thing in life, which I had forgotten long ago. I was reminded that the real nature of human feeling is mostly the same from person to person, mostly the same in every person everywhere on earth. Of course there is that part of human feeling where we are all different. Each One of us has our own idiosyncrasies and our own unique human character. that is the part people are talking about when they are talking about feelings and comparing feelings. But that part is about ten percent of the feelings we feel. Ninety percent of all our feelings is stuff in which we are all the same arid feel the some things. This shared universal human feeling has been forgotten by most people, hidden in the mess of opinions, conflicts, personal differences voiced by governments, religions, politicians, academics, celebrities, and, of course, the omnipresent and omnipotent mass media. These voices of disharmony and disunity have disconnected us from each other and have rusted our hearts. We need to ignore these voices of discord and reawaken each other to honor and respect this huge ocean—this ninety percent—in which our feelings are all alike. Maybe, if we unify ourselves we can have a beautiful America again.


How can a beehive be the clue to a solution? Engineers working for a power company in the northwest were struggling with the problem of how to de-ice power lines during ice storms so they don’t collapse from the weight of the ice.

The conventional approaches to the problem were proving to be very expensive and inefficient. It is not possible to think unpredictably by looking harder and longer in the same direction. When your attention is focused on a subject, a few patterns are highly activated in your brain and dominate your thinking. These patterns produce only predictable ideas no matter how hard you try. In fact, the harder you try, the stronger the same patterns become. If, however, you change your focus and think about something that is not related, different, unusual patterns are activated. If one of these newer patterns relates to one of the first patterns, a connection will be made. This connection will lead to the discovery of an original idea or thought. This is what some people call “divine” inspiration.

This is what the engineers did. Using a technique I described in my book Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques) on how to find and force connections between a challenge and random stimuli, they randomly picked a picture of “Beehives.” Then they listed a variety of things that are associated with beehives and listed them. Included were:

. Bees colonize and live in beehives.                                                      

. Beehives are used to store honey and pollen.

. Honey is a sweet food.

. Ancient Egyptians used honey to embalm corpses.

. Beehives are a favorite food of bears.

. Bears will climb trees to get the hive or shake the tree to make it fall.

. Vibrations make beehives fall.

. Bees communicate with each other with vibrating wings.

The associations with beehives and vibrating wings and bears vibrating trees got them all interested in the principle of vibrational motion. Bears retrieve beehives by shaking trees or by climbing them. Shaking would cause the power lines to vibrate and shake off the ice. A bear climbing a power pole would shake the pole and vibrate power lines as well. But how can we create and use vibration to remove ice from powerlines?

How can they vibrate the power lines economically? One engineer remarked that bees can hover like helicopters. That reminded him of the powerful downwash from a helicopter’s blades. The answer is to hover choppers over the lines and the downwash will vibrate the ice off the lines. This proved to be the most efficient and economical solution to the problem.

An interesting twist is to provide participants with instant film cameras and ask them to take a stroll and photograph interesting objects and scenes. Use them as prompts. A group of managers from various departments met to seek better ways to mesh functions. One of their photographs showed  birds looking at a pond of goldfish. To some it seemed that the birds were trying to communicate with the fish who could not hear them. As they discussed the photo, they realized they saw themselves as the unheard birds. Marketers felt that the researchers were preoccupied with scientific rather than commercial matters; while researchers felt that marketing was deaf to new technical insights. The result was that teams of marketers and researchers now meet quarterly to learn Ahow to talk to each other.@


Creative thinking requires the generation of associations and connection between two or more dissimilar and unrelated subjects. When the Israeli air force needed a way to speed up the healing process for wounds, an analogy was drawn between the wound and a severed electrical cord. To restore the flow of current, the wire had to be spliced back together. The solution took the form of a revolutionary bandage containing magnesium, an element known to conduct electricity. The increased flow of electrical current through the body helped the body speed up the healing process.

Another technological breakthrough based on a visual analogy to nature is the Velcro fastener. George deMestral became curious about why no one had improved the common zipper. He spent time thinking of how things in nature fastened themselves to other objects. One day while walking his dog he noticed how burdock burrs fastened to his dog’s fur with tiny hooks. He figured out how to produce the same effect artificially, and now shoes and countless other objects are fastened with burr-like hooks and cloth-like loops with Velcro. Incredibly, Velcro became a technology that even drew on a natural analog was later used as a source analog. Thus the hook-loop concept led o discoveries such as abdominal closure in surgery, epidermal structure, molecular bonding, antigen recognition, and hydrogen bonding.

Here is an easy technique that with a little practice will have you creating novel ideas in a short period of time.  First, contemplate the problem and see if you can determine its essence. For example, the essence of “How to improve the can opener?” is “opening things.”

(1) Now consider how things “open” in other worlds such as nature, business, sports, government, personal relationships and so on.

(2) Make a list of how things open in other worlds. For example:

  • Oysters open by relaxing a muscle.
  • Valves open by steam.
  •  You open your mail with a letter opener.
  • Ripening weakens a tree bud and the seams open.
  •  You open a window by pulling down or pushing up.
  •  You open a car’s accelerator by pushing a pedal.
  • You open your email by clicking an icon.
  • You open a door by pulling on the doorknob.
  •  You open a fish’s mouth by squeezing at the base of the mouth.
  • You open a basketball game with a jump ball.
  • You open a book by flipping the cover.
  • Ripening weakens the seams on a pea pod and it opens.
  • While sleeping, a noise or light will open your eyes.
  • You open your ATM account with a credit card.
  • The right combination will open a combination lock.
  • You open an egg by cracking it.
  • You open your personal computer with a password.
  • You open a parachute by pulling on its ripcord.

(3) Make analogies between the instances and improving the can opener. Look for connections, relationships and new associations. For example, one new association might be to “open cans by pulling a weak seam (like a pea pod).” Instead of an idea to improve the can opener, we produced an idea for a new can design. Take a few minutes and see what kind of can opener you can create.

Michael Michalko


Michael Michalko’s creative thinking techniques give you the extraordinary ability to focus on information in a different way and different ways to interpret what you are focusing on.

Below is a picture of irregular black and white shapes.

Concentrate on the four small dots in the vertical row in the middle of the picture for at least 30 seconds.

Then close your eyes and tilt your head back. Keep them closed.

Eventually, you will see a circle of light.Continue looking at the circle. What do you see?

Amazing isn’t it?.

By focusing your attention in a different way (focusing on the dots and closing your eyes), you changed your perception of the pattern thereby allowing yourself to see something that you could not otherwise see. Similarly,  Michael Michalko’s creative thinking techniques change the way you think by focusing your attention in different ways and giving you different ways to interpret what you focus on. The techniques will enable you to look at the same information as everyone else and see something different.

Michael Michalko. Creativity consists of seeing what no one else is seeing, to think what no one else is thinking, and doing what others had wish they had done. Become creative. Read Michael’s book THINKERTOYS (A HANDBOOK OF CREATIVE THINKING TECHNIQUES) .