Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category



Imagine a pearl diver on an island in the South Seas. He pushes his canoe off from shore, paddles out into the lagoon, dives deep into the water, picks an oyster off the bottom, surfaces, climbs into his boat, paddles to shore, and opens the shell. Finding nothing inside but an oyster, he pushes his canoe off again, and begins paddling into the lagoon.

What an incredible waste of time. The reasonable thing to do is not to paddle back to shore with one oyster, but to dive again and again, to fill up the canoe with oysters and then return to shore. Pearls are rare—a diver must open many oysters before finding one. Only a foolish person would waste time and energy making a separate trip for each oyster. It’s the same with producing ideas. Many times we’ll produce one or two ideas and proceed as if they are the answer. But creative ideas, like pearls, occur infrequently. So the sensible thing to do is to produce many ideas before we evaluate. Just as a good idea may stop you from going on to discover a great one, a great idea may stop you from discovering the right one.

Many times we work hard, but don’t work creatively. We ask the same question, we peruse the same data. Inevitably that leads to generating similar ideas. Increasing your idea production requires conscious effort.

Suppose I asked you to come up with ideas for the alternative uses for the common brick. No doubt, you would come up with some, but my hunch is not very many. The average adult comes up with three to six ideas. However, if I gave you a quota (50 ideas) and time limit your energy will be focused in a competitive way that guarantees fluency of and flexibility of thought.

To meet the quota, at first you find yourself listing all the usual uses for a brick (e.g., build a wall, fireplace, outdoor barbeque, and so on) as well as listing everything that comes to mind

(e.g., anchor, projectiles in riots, ballast, device to hold down newspaper, a tool for leveling dirt, material for sculptures, doorstop, nut cracker, sharpening stone and so on). Finally, to meet your quota you will exert extra effort which allows you to generate more imaginative alternatives than you otherwise would (e.g., use as a trivet to keep hot pots off the counter, hide a spare key in a brick in your garden, pencil holder, fish tank decoration for fish to swim around and through, paste book covers on bricks and use as bookends, a water saver by putting a brick the back of a toilet to lower the amount of water when you flush.

Initial ideas are usually poorer in quality than later ideas. Just as water must run from a faucet for a while to be crystal clear, cool and free of particles, so thought must flow before it becomes creative. Early ideas are usually not true ideas. Exactly why this is so is not known, but one hypothesis is that familiar and safe responses lie closest to the surface of our consciousness and therefore are naturally thought of first. Creative thinking depends on continuing the flow of ideas long enough to purge the common, habitual ones and produce the unusual and imaginative.

LIST YOUR IDEAS. When you give yourself a quota, you force yourself to list your ideas as well. Leonardo da Vinci had a mania for listing and cataloging his thoughts in little notebooks that he carried everywhere. The thousands of pages of lists that he made constitute the raw material for a huge encyclopedia on creativity. A habit to consciously cultivate is to always write or list your ideas when brainstorming. List-making will help you permanently capture your thoughts and ideas, speed up your thinking, will keep you focused, and will force your mind to dwell upon alternatives.

QUOTA. 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 productivity of your creative thought is to give yourself an idea quota. For example, an idea quota of 40 ideas if you’re looking for ideas alone or a quota of 120 ideas if a group is brainstorming for ideas. By forcing yourself to come up with 40 ideas, you put your internal critic on hold and write everything down, including the obvious and weak. The first third will be the same-old, same-old ideas you always get. The second third will be more interesting and the last third will show more insight, curiosity and complexity.

Michael Michalko








Read the following essay from the top down.LOST GENERATION

Now reverse the way you read it and read it starting at the bottom and read up. Reading the words one way and then reversing the way you read the same words produces two contradictory viewpoints. Reversals break your existing patterns of thought and provoke new ones. You take things as they are and then turn them around, inside out, upside down, and back to front to see what happens.

In the illustration, Figure A shows two lines of equal length bounded by arrow-like angles. In Figure B, the arrow-like angles are reversed on one of the lines, which changes our perception and creates the illusion of the line being shorter. It’s not shorter, measure it and you will find it is still equal in length. The lines haven’t changed, your perception of them has.

4 lines.illus.1

In figure A the angles at the end of the lines seem to open up a potentially limited space. Reversing the angle seems to close off and limit the area, which changes your perception of the length of the lines.

A simple reversal of angles dramatically changes what we see in the illustration. The same perceptual changes occur when we reverse our conventional thinking patterns about problems and situations. When Henry Ford went into the automobile business, the conventional thinking was that you had to “bring people to the work.” He reversed this to “bring the work to the people” and accomplished this by inventing the assembly line. When Al Sloan became CEO of General Motors, the common assumption was that people had to pay for a car before they drove it. He reversed this to you can drive the car before you pay for it and, to accomplish this, he pioneered the idea of installment buying.

Years back, chemists had great difficulty putting a pleasant-tasting coating on aspirin tablets. Dipping tablets led to uneven and lumpy coats. They were stumped until they reversed their thinking. Instead of looking for ways to put something “on” the aspirin, they looked for ways to take something “off” the aspirin. This reversal led to one of the newer techniques for coating pills. The pills are immersed in a liquid which is passed onto a spinning disk. The centrifugal force on the fluid and the pills causes the two to separate, leaving a nice, even coating around the pill.

Mathematician-philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once astounded his colleagues by demonstrating that in mathematical argument, every alternative leads to its opposite. You can provoke new ideas by considering the opposite of any subject or action. When bioengineers were looking for ways to improve the tomato, they identified the gene in tomatoes that ripens tomatoes. They thought that if the gene hastens ripening  maybe they could use the gene to slow down the process by reversing it. They copied the gene, put it in backwards and now the gene slows down ripening, making vine ripened tomatoes possible in winter.

Peter Juroszek at the University of Bonn in Germany discovered the opposite of daylight farming and initiated nighttime farming. He found that strips of land ploughed at night grow five times fewer weeds. Wheat fields in particular grow so few weeds when night farming that pesticides are unnecessary. The seeds of most weeds need light for germination to begin, whereas the seeds of most crops can grow in complete darkness.

Reversal is the strategy used to develop Pringles potato chips. Potato chips were packaged dry in bags with a lot of air to prevent breakage. What would happen if you packaged chips while they were wet? This inspired them to think of raking leaves in the fall. Shoving dry leaves into bags is difficult; but when the leaves are wet they are soft and formable. A wet leaf conforms to the shape of its neighbor with little air between them. This was the analogy that inspired the idea. By wetting and forming dried potato flour, the packaging problem was solved and Pringles got its start.


Any particular thought will arouse the notion of its opposite by simply by reversing it. Then try to work the reversal into a practical, profitable idea. A publisher mused about the impact cutting down trees has on the environment and the future of the planet. A tree is cut down and the wood is made into paper which the publisher uses to print and sell books. He thought a tree becomes a book. He reversed this thought to “A book becomes a tree.”

IDEA: The project the publisher decided to pursue is to create storybooks that can be planted, and will grow back into trees. Hand stitched copies of children’s storybooks are made from recycled acid-free paper and biodegradable inks and the cover is embedded with native tree seeds.

The books are aimed at children aged 6-12 who, after reading, can plant the book and watch and nurture the tree as it grows. Each copy comes with planting instructions. The child is also urged to form a relationship with the tree by giving it a name. The publisher is also planning to have the book displayed in bookshops, where it can be seen visibly germinating.

In this case, the impossibility of growing books as plants revealed the interesting thought of planting books as seeds for trees. Imagine the joy of children as they realize the ecological importance of contributing to the welfare of the planet by planting a book after they have finished reading it and watch it become a tree. They will nurture the tree and watch it grow over the years of their childhood.


Reversal is one of the many creative-thinking techniques creative geniuses, throughout history, used that enabled them to change their perspective to look at the same thing as everybody else and see something different.








At this very moment, you are actually moving your eyes over a white page dotted with black marks. Your mind recognizes and transforms the marks into patterns which we call words and sentences. Our minds created the patterns when we first learned to talk and read. Now we no longer see the words as patterns of black marks and lose ourselves in what we are reading.

The patterns are so hard wired in our brains that we no longer can imagine the black marks being anything else but letters, words, and sentences. Look at above title and try not to see the words and letters, but only black shapes on white paper; that is, try to see the original input that you had when you were a two-year-old. You’ll find that it’s impossible because of the word patterns stored in your brain.

The dominant factor in the way our minds work is the buildup of patterns that enable us to simplify the assimilation of complex data. We look at 7 x 7 and 49 appears automatically without conscious thought. We have no memory of how we calculated the answer.

In another example that demonstrates the effectiveness of thinking patterns, add one letter at the beginning of the following letters to make a word…..(any). What is the word? Now add one letter before the next set of letters to make a word..…(eny).

Most think of the word “many” quickly for the first set. However, some people have difficulty thinking of the word deny for the second set. The sound of the first word creates a temporary mini-pattern. As a result, you search your memory for other words with similar sounds when you are trying to think of the second word. But the problem can’t be solved unless you break this pattern and shift your thinking. And this is only one word.

Can you understand the following  sentence:

“This sentence no verb.”

You can easily understand it despite the missing verb “has.” Again your sentence pattern recognizes what’s missing and automatically fills in the blank. Habitual pattern recognition provides us with instant interpretations and enables us to react quickly to our environment.

Below are two sentences:

  • Round squares steal honestly.
  • Honestly steal squares round.

Both sentences use the same words. Yet we know the first one is nonsense immediately because it fits a well established word sentence pattern (adjective…noun…verb…adverb). We know immediately that squares are not round, cannot steal and it’s not possible to steal honestly. The second one is strange and makes us hesitate and think before we dismiss it. This is because the second one does not fit any word sentence pattern in our brain and we actually have to think.

Consider what happens when you read these words:

  • Thief…………careless……….prison

Just three words activate a thinking pattern in your brain that relates a story about a thief who is careless, gets caught and ends up in prison.

It is known today that grouping and categorization are among the most primitive psychological processes. Thought is a process of fitting new situations into existing slots and pigeonholes in the mind. Just as you cannot put a physical thing into more than one physical pigeonhole at once, so, by analogy, the processes of thought prevent you from putting a mental thought  into more than one mental category at once. Consequently a structure like, thief, careless, prison will be persistently conceived as a careless thief who ends up in prison. You will note that the mind does not offer alternative explanations such as “A thief who is not careless will not go to prison,” or “A thief will learn not to be careless in prison.” The mind will not automatically consider alternatives because the mind cannot tolerate ambiguity.

Think of your mind as a block of ice which is frozen and polished so that it’s surface is perfectly flat. When information enters the mind, it self-organizes. It is like pouring warm water on the block of ice with a teaspoon. Imagine the warm water being poured on the ice and then gently tip the block of ice so that it runs off. After many repetitions of this process, the surface of the ice would be full of ruts, indentations, and grooves.

Soon you’ll observe that new water will automatically flow into the preformed grooves. This is how information self organizes as it enters the brain. After a while, it will take only a little water to active an entire channel. This is the pattern recognition and pattern completion process of the brain. Even if much of the information is out of the channel, as is the case about the careless thief, the entire pattern will be activated.

Following are three thought experiments that demonstrate how our thinking patterns can direct our thoughts. Please try and answer all three before you go to the answers which are at the end of the article.


Don’t scroll down too fast, do it slowly and follow the instructions below exactly, do the math in your head as fast as you can. It may help to say the answers aloud quietly.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT #1 FOLLOW these instructions one at a time and as QUICKLY as you can!

What is:





Quick! Pick a number between 12 and 5.

Got it? Write it down. Complete the next two experiments before you check your answer.


THOUGHT EXPERIMENT #2: Just follow these instructions, and answer the questions one at a time and as quickly as you can! Don’t advance until you’ve done each of them. Now, scroll down, but not too fast, you might miss something………

What is:






Now repeat saying the number 6 to yourself as fast as you can for 10 seconds. Then scroll down.







Check your answer when you’ve finished all three.


THOUGHT EXPERIMENT #3 Once more follow these instructions, and answer the questions one at a time and as quickly as you can!  Again, do this as quickly as you can but don’t advance until you’ve done each of them.

* Now, scroll down (but not too fast, you might miss something).

Think of a number from 1 to 10

Multiply that number by 9

If the number is a 2-digit number, add the digits together

Now subtract 5

Determine which letter in the alphabet corresponds to the number you ended up with (example: 1=a, 2=b, 3=c, etc.).







Think of a country that starts with that letter


Remember the last letter of the name of that country


Think of the name of an animal that starts with that letter


Remember the last letter in the name of that animal


Think of the name of a fruit that starts with that letter

Check your answer below.





EXPERIMENT #1….Answer is 7

EXPERIMENT #2….Answer is “carrot.”

EXPERIMENT #3….Answer “Are you thinking of a Kangaroo in Denmark eating an orange?”


MICHAEL MICHALKO is the author of  the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), which the Wall Street Journal reported “will change the way you think.” He is also the author of Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Geniuses) 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. In addition, he created Thinkpak (A Brainstorming Card Set), which is a novel creative-thinking tool that is designed to facilitate brainstorming sessions. Michael’s most recent book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work focuses on how creative geniuses combine dissimilar subjects create original thoughts and ideas.





Think about a swimming pool with a lot of people jumping in and out forming a great choppiness of all these waves all over the surface. Now to think that it’s possible, maybe, that in those waves there’s a clue as to what’s happening in the pool: that an insect of sufficient cleverness could sit in the corner of the pool, and just by being disturbed by the waves and the nature of the irregularities, the insect could figure out who jumped in where, why, how and when, and what’s happening all over the pool.

Imagine Einstein shuffling by in his swimming suit and laughing at the belly whopper Mozart just made diving into the pool. Nikola Tesla sitting by the side of the pool petting a pigeon while smiling at Bill Gates who is dog paddling across the pool. Leonardo da Vinci, Beethoven, Isaac Newton and David Bohm playing water polo. Pablo Picasso sitting by a table sipping a Coors light beer while sketching the scene. Aristotle and Thomas Edison wading in the shallow end engrossed in some argument. Ghandi reclining under an umbrella eyeballing Martha Graham as she strolls by. Michelangelo gracefully breast stroking past Sigmund Freud who is floating on an air cushion smoking a cigar. Socrates slapping Soren Kierkegaard with a wet towel than running away laughing. Plato, Bertrand Russell, Edith Wharton and Louis Pasteur playing shuffleboard. James Watson, Diogenes, Stravinsky and Jonas Salk sitting at the Tiki bar drinking draft beer and watching girl’s beach volleyball on television.

It seems incredible, but I feel like that insect as I look at creative thinking and the lives of creative geniuses throughout history. The waves, both large and small are going in all directions, each disturbance in the water is unique yet, at the same time, all are the same. The movement of the water in the pool is a fluid process that reminds me of the fluid movement of creative thinking as a kind of artistic process that yields ever-changing form and content. Yet many of us speak of “creativity” as a noun, as if it is some kind of physical property that you either own or not.

We hear scholars define creativity with reverent words like “bisociation,” “janusian,” “dialectical,” “synectics,” “morphological analysis,” “Triz,” “Ariz,” “Genoplore model,” “CPS” model, “cognitive integration theory,” “associative theory,” and so on and on,” whose academic tones suggest that they refer to clear and definite ideas. It’s as if they think that if they change the names of things, the things themselves will have changed from a complex process to a thing.

In fact, what the various theories best illustrate is our almost universal tendency to fragment subjects into separate parts and ignore the dynamic interconnectedness of its parts. Think of these different theories as “waves” in the pool of creativity. Scholars who believe their theory is the key try to understand what creates waves by studying one just wave and ignoring the rest. They ignore the dynamic interconnectedness of all the theories, just as the insect ignores the interconnectedness of the waves. The ongoing fragmentation of creativity and resulting chaos are not reflections of the real world of creative thinking but the artifacts of scholarship. Scholars have co-opted the subject of “creativity” as their own, to be expressed in their own language and in their own framework of formal thought. The result is confusion and paradox which places a limit on understanding what creative thinking is in terms of ordinary thought and language.

Suppose I go into the woods and see a bird. I know the bird is a brown-throated thrush, but in Germany it’s called a halsenflugel, and in China it’s called a chung ling and even if I know all the different names in different languages for it, I still know nothing about the bird. I only know something about people and what they call the bird. Now that the thrush sings, teaches its young how to fly, and flies many miles away during the summer and somehow always finds its way back and nobody knows how it does so and so forth. There is a difference between knowing the name of something and understanding something.

It is the same with creative thinking. We go to school and learn about Albert Einstein and his theories about the universe and we say he was creative. We are not taught how he thought. We’re taught he was simply more intelligent than other scientists. We’re taught nothing about his mental process of “combinatory play” of visual images or the irrationality of his way of speculative thinking about “damn fool ideas,” or the many dead ends and failures he experienced. We’re presented with his idea as a product of superior intellect and knowledge. Analogically, as if we are taught how to measure daily rainfall by the rise of water in a pail without ever realizing that the rain arrives in individual drops.

When I say something like “The cat is chasing the mouse,” we think of two distinct entities, a cat and a mouse linked together by a verb. The cat and mouse are the primary objects of our thinking. Theoretical physicists and artists, on the other hand, see “the chasing” as primary and the cat and mouse being secondary to the experience of the process of chasing.

John is falling from the roof to the pavement. Here we tend to concentrate on John and the “splat” he will make when he hits. When Albert Einstein had a thought of a man falling, he concentrated on the process of “falling.” Almost immediately, Einstein realized that as the man fell he would not feel his own weight. This essence of this insight meant free falls are equivalent in both gravitational fields and gravity free regions. This observation became the foundation of the general theory of relativity.

The Einsteins, Shakespeares, and Picassos of the world understand that all things in the universe are processes, transformations, and symmetries, that nothing is static and nothing lasts forever. Even this page is slowly dissolving into dust as you look at it. Still, scholars write of creativity as if it were a stand-alone static object. When I say something like “biosociation” generates many alternatives,” we, again think of two distinct entities, biosociation and alternatives as primary with “generates” as secondary. Yet “biosociation” is simply empty definition and tautology; whereas the verb “generates” is the dynamic process that creates ideas. Creativity is not a thing, it is a process.

Few of us understand that creativity is not a noun. It is a verb. Verbs are thinking, creating, sculpting, painting, making, dancing, singing, acting, searching, seizing, preparing, growing, reaping, seeing, knowing. Now when you take a verb that is alive and vibrant and turn it into a dead noun or principle that reeks of rules: something living dies.

To continue further, think of the sentence “The mouse is confined in a box.” A box is made by nailing six boards together. But it’s obvious that no box can hold a mouse unless it has “containment.” If you study each board, you will discover that no single board contains any containment, since the mouse can just walk away from it. And if there is no containment in one board, there can’t be any in six boards. So the box can have no containment at all. Theoretically then, the mouse should be able to escape.

What, then, keeps the mouse confined? Of course, it is the way a box prevents motion in all directions, because each board bars escape in a certain direction. The left side keeps the mouse from going left; the right from going right, the top keeps it from leaping out, and so on. The secret of a box is simply in how the boards are arranged to prevent motion in all directions! That’s what “containing: means. So it’s silly to expect any separate board by itself to contain any containment, even though each contributes to the containing. It is like the cards of a straight flush in poker: only the full hand has any value at all.

The reason box seems non-mysterious is that we understand perfectly that no single board can contain by itself. Everyone understands how the boards of a well made box interact to prevent motion in any direction. The same applies to the word “creativity.” It is foolish to use this word for describing the smallest components of a process because this word was invented to describe how larger assemblies interact. Like “containment,” the word “creativity” is used for describing phenomena that result from certain combinations of relationships. This is the difference between knowing the name of something and understanding something.

But how much more difficult it is to think of creativity as a phenomena that results from a certain combination of relationships. This combination includes the principles of intention, belief, attitude, behavior, language, , knowing how to change the way you look at things, knowing how to think in different ways and learning how to think inclusively without the prejudices of logic. We’ve been schooled to think of them all as separate and distinct entities so they can be described and explained. Despite the apparent separateness of these at this level, they are all a seamless extension of each other and ultimately blend into each other.

When you look at nature, contents aren’t contained anywhere but are revealed only by the dynamics. What matters to nature are the ways relationships interact, the way they cooperate and combine to form coherent patterns. In nature form and content are inextricably connected and can’t be separated. The healthy pattern of trees bending in concert creates harmony and beauty, whereas, an unhealthy pattern is destructive and ugly. With the trees, it is the combination of relationships between the wind, rain, roots and soil that forms the healthy or unhealthy relationships. With people, it is a common body of human behaviors and generalized principles from which patterns blend together to create the person.

Like nature, the contents of creative genius aren’t contained anywhere but also are revealed by the dynamics. When you look at the behaviors of creative geniuses such as Leonardo daVinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and so on throughout the history of the world, you will find that, like the patterns of nature, the form and contents of their behaviors are inextricably connected and can’t be separated. Creators have the intention to create, and act and speak in a positive and joyful manner. Creators look at what is and what can be instead of what is not. Instead of excluding possibilities, creators consider all possibilities, both real and imagined. Creators interpret the world for themselves and disregard the interpretations of past thinkers. Creators learn how to look at things in different ways and use different ways of thinking. And most importantly, creators are creative because they believe they are creative and have the intention to create.

Can you imagine a Vincent Van Gogh bemoaning his failure to sell his paintings as evidence of his lack of talent, a Thomas Edison giving up on his idea for a light bulb when he had difficulty finding the right material for the filament, a Leonardo daVinci who is too embarrassed to attempt much of anything because of his lack of a university degree, a Charles Darwin believing the experts who called him a fool and his theory “a fool’s experiment,” an Albert Einstein who is fearful of looking stupid for presenting theories to theoretical physicists about the universe as a lowly patent clerk with no academic credentials, a Michelangelo refusing to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel because he had never painted fresco and feared failure and ridicule, a weeping and wailing Mozart blaming an unfair world for his poverty, a Walt Disney giving up his ambitions after being fired from his first job by a newspaper editor because he lacked imagination, a Henry Ford giving up his dreams after the experts explained that he didn’t have the capital to compete in the automobile industry, a Bill Gates taking an some ordinary job after dropping out of Harvard, a Michael Faraday defeated in his work with electricity because of a lack of knowledge of higher mathematics and going back to his regular job of being an errand boy, or a depressed Picasso shuffling down the street with his head down looking at the ground, humiliated at the way art experts labeled his first attempts with cubism as laughable cartoons, hoping no one notices him?

Use what talents you have.
The woods would be silent
if no bird sang
except those that sang best.



Michael Michalko is one of the most highly-acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius), and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.







In the graphic above, 9 toothpicks are arranged to form a 100. Can you change 100 to form the word CAT by altering the position of just 2 toothpicks? Take a few moments and see if you can solve it.

One of the many ways in which our mind attempts to make life easier is to solve the first impression of the problem that it encounters. Like our first impressions of people, our initial perspective on problems and situations are apt to be narrow and superficial. We see no more than we’ve been conditioned to see–and stereotyped notions block clear vision and crowd out imagination. This happens without any alarms sounding, so we never realize it’s occurring.

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. What if the crippled man who invented the motorized cart had defined his problem as: “How to occupy my time while lying in bed?” rather than “How to get out of bed and move around the house?”

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.

Leonardo Da Vinci believed that to gain knowledge about the form of problems, you began by learning how to restructure it to see it in many different ways. He felt the first way he looked at a problem was too biased toward his usual way of seeing things. He would restructure his problem by looking at it from one perspective and move to another perspective and still another. With each move, his understanding would deepen and he would begin to understand the essence of the problem.  Leonardo called this thinking strategy saper vedere or “knowing how to see.”

To start with, it’s helpful to coin problems in a particular way. Write the problems you want to solve as a definite question. Use the phrase “In what ways might I…?” to start a problem statement. Using this phrase instead of simply asking “how” will psychologically influence you to look for alternative ways.

When we first look at our problem we read it the way we’re taught to read figures left to right. It can’t be solved this way moving just 2 sticks. In what ways might you look at the problem? One other way is to visualize the figure as being upside down read the figure from right to left.


The trick is that the word CAT will be upside down after you solve the puzzle. Simply take the toothpick that is the left side of the second zero, and place it horizontally and centered at the bottom of the 1. Then move the toothpick at the top of the first zero halfway toward the bottom.

Now turn it upside down.


Genius often comes from finding a new perspective of a problem by restructuring it in some way. When Richard Feynman, the Nobel Laureate physicist, was “stuck” with a problem, he would look at it in a different way. If one way didn’t work, he would switch to another. Whatever came up, he would always find another way to look at it. Feynman would do something in ten minutes that would take the average physicist a year because he had a lot of ways to represent his problem.


Best-selling creativity expert Michael Michalko shows that in every field of endeavor, from business and science to government, the arts, and even day-to-day life — natural CREATIVE THINKERINGcreativity is limited by the prejudices of logic and the structures of accepted categories and concepts. Through step-by-step exercises, illustrated strategies, and inspiring real-world examples he shows readers how to liberate their thinking and literally expand their imaginations by learning to synthesize dissimilar subjects, think paradoxically, and enlist the help of the subconscious mind. He also reveals the attitudes and approaches diverse geniuses share — and anyone can emulate. … via @amazon


Michael Michalko is one of the most highly-acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius), and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.








The actor Alan Alda once visited a group of memory researchers at the University of California, Irvine, for a TV show he was making. During a picnic lunch, one of the scientists offered Alda a hard-boiled egg. He turned it down, explaining that as a child he had made himself sick eating too many eggs.

In fact, this had never happened, yet Alda believed it was real. How so? The egg incident was a false memory planted by one of UC Irvine’s researchers, Elizabeth Loftus.

Before the visit, Loftus had sent Alda a questionnaire about his food preferences and personality. She later told him that a computer analysis of his answers had revealed some facts about his childhood, including that he once made himself sick eating too many eggs. There was no such analysis but it was enough to convince Alda.

Your memory may feel like a reliable record of the past, but it is not. Loftus has spent the past 30 years studying the ease with which we can form “memories” of nonexistent events. She has convinced countless people that they have seen or done things when they haven’t – even quite extreme events such as being attacked by animals or almost drowning. Her work has revealed much about how our brains form and retain memories.

While we wouldn’t want to plant a memory of a nonexistent childhood trauma in your own brain, there is a less dramatic demonstration of how easy it is to form a false memory called the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm. Read the first two lists of words and pause for a few minutes. Then scroll down and read list 3. Put a tick against the words that were in the first two. Now go back and check your answers.


































MICHAEL MICHALKO is the author of  the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), which the Wall Street Journal reported “will change the way you think.” He is also the author of Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Geniuses) 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. In addition, he created Thinkpak (A Brainstorming Card Set), which is a novel creative-thinking tool that is designed to facilitate brainstorming sessions. Michael’s most recent book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work focuses on how creative geniuses combine and conceptually blend dissimilar subjects create original thoughts and ideas.






'Pepper, anyone?'


There is much anecdotal evidence to indicate that creative people are more often eccentric or more often have odd personality features than the non-creative population. Famous visionaries often develop a reputation for having a few eccentricities. Following are a few of the strange habits from Problema de logica and Madness of Psychiatry by Saxby Pridmore:

  • Hans Christian Anderson, the Danish author of children’s stories carried a coil of rope for fear of being caught in a hotel room fire.
  • When the wife of the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossettidied, as a token of his love, he placed his unpublished manuscripts beside her in her coffin. Seven years later he dug up the coffin, dusted off his papers and published them.
  • Sir Walter Scotthad a salt cellar which was made from the fourth cervical vertebra of Charles I.
  • James Joycekept a tiny pair of doll’s knickers in his pocket.
  • Marcel Proustwrote most of his novels lying in bed.
  • Composer Gioachino Rossiniwas completely bald and wore a wig. In exceptionally cold weather, however, he wore two or three wigs simultaneously.
  • Beethovenhad no interest in personal cleanliness and his friends had to take his dirty clothes away and wash them while he slept.
  • Many great scientists as well as writers and artists have been eccentric. Sir Francis Galton, one of the most prolific scientists of all time regularly carried a brick wrapped in brown paper and tied with a piece of rope, so that he could stand on it to see over people’s heads when he was in a crowd.
  • Alexander Graham Bellkept his windows permanently covered to keep out the harmful rays of the moon.
  • Sir Joseph Bankswas described by his biographer as “a wild and eccentric character,” who scared his neighbors.
  • Nicola Tesla, who gave his name to the unit of magnetism was celibate and said, “I don’t think that you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men”.
  • Henry Cavendish, a great chemist and physicist, was exceptionally shy and would only ever eat mutton. He communicated with his servants by letter, if he met one by accident, they were dismissed. He had a second staircase built in his house so that he could avoid them more easily.
  • Greek orator Demostheneswould force himself to stay focused on composing his orations by shaving off half of his hair, making him look so ridiculous that he wouldn’t be tempted to procrastinate by leaving his home. Victor Hugo would do something similar, forcing himself to meet his daily writing goals by having his valet hide his clothes. Yup, the guy who wrote “Les Miserables” liked to work in the nude.
  • Some writers need to go through the ritual of touching base with a favorite literary totem. For example, Somerset Maughamwould read Voltaire’s “Candide” before starting work, while Willa Cather read the Bible.
  • Author William Faulknerpreferred to type with his toes instead of his fingers. He kept his shoes on his hands while he worked.
  • Before Ernst Hemingwaysat down to write he would go over his writing goals for the day with his six-toed cats. He refused to share such things with other, normal toed cats, which he considered to be poor listeners.
  • The surrealist artist Salvador Dali had the habit of keeping the pens of fans who asked him for autographs, which just goes to show you’re never too rich and famous to not enjoy stealing from people less well off than you.
  • J B S Haldanewas one of the best known scientists of the twentieth century, at one time he did not remove his boots for three weeks. General Haig said of him that he was “the bravest and dirtiest soldier in the army.”
  • Dr Paul Erdoswas one of the most gifted mathematicians of all time, writing 1500 scientific papers. He lived as a homeless derelict, shunning material possessions because, “property is nuisance.”
  • Rudyard Kiplingdid not actually do any writing, but instead delegated the task to a team of ghostwriters. Kipling himself spent his days sitting on his front porch smoking clove cigarettes because he felt they made him look artsy.
  • English novelist Mary Shelleykept a domesticated 23-foot-long boa constrictor in her writing studio. She would wrap the snake around her shoulders while she wrote. When the snake grew restless and began to squeeze, she allowed herself to stop writing for the day.
  • Ezra Poundpreferred to breathe through his nose. But when writing, he would breathe exclusively through his mouth.
  • William Wadsworthliked to narrate his poems to his dog. If the dog got upset or barked at the sounds of his words, he would start working on the poem again.
  • Franz Kafkareally loved pineapple upside down cake. And so anytime he finished a story, he allowed himself to eat a whole pineapple upside down cake all by himself without sharing any with anyone else, not even a bite.
  • Ben Franklinknew the benefits of working long hours, as well as being known among his peers as being a person who worked long hours. This work ethic was essential for growing his printing business. He also had a routine of asking himself questions during the day. Ben Franklin asked himself each morning (at 5 am), “What good shall I do today?” every night before bed (around 10 pm), “What good have I done to-day?”
  • Playwright Henrik Ibsenwould work at a desk decorated with a portrait of arch-rival playwright August Strindberg.
  • Mathematician Paul Erdösused the last 25 years of his life to devote 19 hour days to the pursuit of higher math. To stay alert, he amped himself up with 10 to 20 milligrams of Benzedrine or Ritalin (along with strong espresso and caffeine tablets.) “A mathematician,” he said, “is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.”
  • Artist Marcel Duchampis associated with both surrealism and the dada movement. While he worked in a variety of styles, he’s most famous for his “readymade” art, which was basically a giant middle finger to the art world. Readymades are everyday objects that Duchamp came across and presented to the world as pieces of art. Duchamp made about twenty of these, but by far the most famous example is a work called “Fountain,” which is nothing more than a urinal he purchased. When it came time to display his “creation” at an art show the board in charge of the exhibit had a fierce debate and eventually chose to hide the display from view, presumably in the washroom.
  • Andy Warholwas an American painter who led the pop art movement. Much like Duchamp he challenged notions of just what art was; among his most famous paintings is that of a Campbell’s soup can (which first sold for 1500 dollars). That’s right, somebody paid 1500 dollars for a picture of a soup label (something you can get for free). He mass produced his work, and to help him do so he hired “Warhol Superstars,” which was a group of people who ranged from porno producers to drug addicts. Warhol’s Superstars tended to have drug filed orgies as they mass produced his art while he mostly sat and watched.
  • King Otto, ruler of Bavaria from 1886 to 1913, shot a peasant every morning to start his day. Thankfully, his two advisors were kind-hearted: one gave the king a rifle filled with blanks, and the other dressed as a “peasant,” acting out death throes when he was “shot.”
  • Lord Byron was probably a nympho.He kept lists of his lovers and apparently slept with more than 250 women in one year alone. Lady Caroline Lamb called him “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” He slept with her, of course, and her cousin. And supposedly his own half sister as well. And he commemorated each one in a very, um, special way: he snipped a bit of hair (not scalp hair, people) from each conquest and saved it in a little envelope marked with the appropriate name. Until 1980 or so, these locks of love were still housed at Byron’s publishing house, but they’re unaccounted for these days.
    Leo Tolstoy’s quirk was basically exhibitionism, I suppose. When he married 18-year-old Sofia Behrs, he made her spend their wedding night reading his diaries. Maybe not so bad, you say, but his diaries contained detailed accounts of all of the women he had slept with throughout his lifetime. Sofia was totally not into it – her diary account the day afterward called his writing “filth” and reflected how disgusted she was.



MICHAEL MICHALKO is the author of Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), which the Wall Street Journal reported “will change the way you think.” He is also the author of Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Geniuses) 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. In addition, he created Thinkpak (A Brainstorming Card Set), which is a novel creative-thinking tool that is designed to facilitate brainstorming sessions. Michael’s most recent book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work focuses on how creative geniuses combine and conceptually blend dissimilar subjects create original thoughts and ideas.