Monthly Business Book Review: Creative Thinkering by Michael Michalko

Your Monthly Book Report from Murphy Business, December 31, 2012

By

CHRISTOPHER M. BOND 

This review is from: Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work (Paperback)

We read ’em, so you don’t have to! As the nuns used to say, put on your thinking caps. Remember that, when you’d have to fake-tie on your cap? (No, well this would be a good time to make fun of me, now wouldn’t it?) This month’s selection, Creative Thinkering by Michael Michalko, is like one long session with Sister Helen Margaret and the thinking cap. Michalko takes the reader through numerous thought experiments and exercises centered on the random approach to thinking and problem solving. Like last month’s recommended book, Tribal Leadership, this one is perfect for the business leader who is stuck and in need of new approaches to day-in-and-day-out challenges. With a cup of da Vinci here, a dose of van Gogh there, and a pinch of Picasso for good measure, this book reads like a Renaissance recipe for those in need of more creativity.

One of the key takeaways here comes toward the end, when the author challenges the reader with something he calls “the word pattern of impossibility.” Let’s say you don’t consider yourself to be the creative type; Michalko would say that you’ve likely stopped striving to become so. To address this malaise, he takes the reader through new ways of thinking to get from “I can’t be creative” to “I will be creative.” If you’re hearing a big of Stuart Smalley here, you’re not far off. (Let’s face it, you’re not going to tackle self-limiting thinking without it coming off as, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”) But if you can get beyond that, you’ll find value in the author’s recommendations to go from impossibility, to possibility, to necessity, to certainty, to desire. His experiments are simple yet highly effective. The stories about utterly random strategies to overcoming tough challenges are remarkable, notably how one would-be author overcame the classic Catch-22 struggle of you can’t be published without an agent/you can’t get an agent if you’re not published that has to read twice to be believed.

The recurring theme in Creative Thinkering is that there are ways to return to our formative years, when spontaneity and creativity came naturally. Michalko claims that our schools ruined us for thinking, that it’s as if “we entered school as a question mark and graduated as a period.” And he hammers the point that “we see no more than we expect to see.” Retold here is the wonderful social experiment conducted by The Washington Post years ago, through which a world-class violinist, playing intricate material on a $3.5 million instrument in a Metro station was virtually ignored by everyone save for children who tried to stop and listen. Adults assumed a bum was playing for tips; children heard what was real – a rare talent who had sold out a concert hall two days before. If you’re up for starting 2013 by taking a different tack to your average day’s occurrences, this book will surely help you get there.

Happy new reading!

Chris

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