THINKERTOYS by Michael Michalko
There are many different ways of achieving success. Different people can explain their ideas in their own individual styles. Michalko has found "the right way", using his own approach. He has a couple of bright ideas. It's up to you to find out.
THINKERTOYS takes you to places where your mind has probably not gone
before. It enters realms unexplored, opens vistas that astound and
fascinate you. In a dominion that is probably inhabited by only one or two
per cent of the world's population of 5.2 billion, you are privileged to
be called upon to visit the playground of geniuses but what ordinary
humans called the outer limits, or the final frontier.
Michael Michalko has compiled some of the best thinking techniques in
the world and put them into a single volume - this is it.
Actually, the subtitle Handbook of Business Creativity is a misnomer. It
is incorrect because in the final analysis the book proffers so much more
that it promises.
It is a house of treasures that will satisfy the individual who has an
insatiable thirst for knowledge. Thinkertoys is like an athletic camp that
trains your mind to generate ideas and strengthens the brain to an optimum
If you find it difficult to conjure anything new in the past 24 hours,
or you have not done so since your 21th birthday, then it's time to clear
those cobwebs from your mind.
There are two broad categories - one is called linear and the other
intuitive. The linear technique teaches you how to manipulate existing
data or information and come up with new ideas or solutions, or simply new
answers to old problems.
The intuitive technique makes use of your imagination or intuition. In
this forest of your mind, there are boundaries. It goes as far as your
mind can stretch. In intuitive thinking, there is literally no limit,
except where your mind calls a halt.
Thinkertoys is fascinating, endlessly enjoyable and wonderfully
packaged. The subject is logic personified. It helps create in your mind
the `third eye' - the one which many of those people with high IQs or EQs
might not even possess.
The techniques once mastered are formidable in the minds of aspiring
entrepreneurs. There is practically nothing you cannot overcome. All you
need is the inspiration, the perspiration and the preparation.
There is a vast mind-field of examples to spur the reader. For example,
during the Great Depression of 1930s, Will Kellogg, the chief executive
officer of Kellogg's, made up his mind to go against the trend.
At a time when companies were cutting costs and reducing advertising
budgets, Kellogg's strategy was to double everything, including building
the biggest billboard in Times Square. The after-effect of his idea, as
they say, is history, and on most of our breakfast tables today.
To add to that foretaste of great ideas, in 1853 at an upper-crust
Saratoga Springs resort, chief chef George Crum encountered a fastidious
diner. A customer repeatedly returned George's potatoes to the kitchen,
complaining that they were too thick. In a fit of rage, George took out a
very sharp knife and chopped the potato into wafer-thin slices. He then
fried the slices in boiling fat.
The annoying customer took an instant liking to George's new culinary
creation. Henceforth, it was called the Saratoga chip among the growing
number of George's fans. Today we called them potato chips.
Michael Michalko, the writer of this book, is an avid fan of ancient
Chinese strategist Sun Tzu who is famous for his art of war. As an
aperitif to all well catalogued thoughts, each chapter contains a capsule
of Sun Tzu's principles.
In part one of the book on thinkertoys techniques, an entire chapter is
devoted to SCAMPER. Scamper is a formula for manufacturing ideas. It is a
word that has been arranged into a mnemonic.
Each letter of the word consists of a meaning. S is substitute, C is
combine, A is for adapt and so on. Scamper is a checklist that allows a
perso n to twist and turn a problem and transform it into a challenge.
When the problem or issue has been flipped over a few hundred ways, it can
present an amazing array of solutions.
The Scamper chapter tells the story of how the technique was employed to
turn an electronic device into a best-selling product by Sony engineers.
In 1978, Sony engineers attempted to design a tiny, portable stereo tape
recorder. They failed. What they produced was a stereo player that cannot
Masaru Ibuka, the honorary chairman of Sony, sauntered into the workshop
one day and spotted the `failed' device. Soon, he came up with the idea of
using that unrecordable tape player with headphones. The Sony corporation
decided to market a limited number of this new player called Walkman.
Sony's target was the teenage market.
The teenage response was unexpectedly dismal but the rest of the world
was ecstatic over the new product. Today the Walkman continues to be one
of the company's best selling products.
Scamper, a linear thinkertoy, is the art of manipulating ideas until
they become unquestionably successful.
Another technique that deserves mention is the Phoenix Checklist that
was developed by the Central Intelligence Agency for its agents.
First, Phoenix looks at the problem and challenges it from more than 30
positions. Then it calls forth a plan and probes deeply for a solution in
as many variety of ways. The Phoenix Checklist is a well researched method
that uses pure reason to unravel what may initially be an insurmountable
It will definitely come in useful if one day you are suddenly retrenched
when you have only a ringgit to your name and your car installment is due
in seven days.
In Thinkertoys' other section that encompasses 12 chapters on intuitive
thinking, chapter 22 begins with the teaching of a method to generate
alpha waves. Alpha waves are products of the mind when it is in a relaxed
state. The idea is select a quiet surrounding, pick a specific mental
technique, adopt a passive attitude and let your mind do the rest. This is
called `chilling out a problem.' It is a well known method of thinking
through a problem without the stress of being in a conscious state. It has
been used by many experts in the field of human mental development.
Confucius said centuries ago: `Learning without thinking is labour lost,
thinking without learning is perilous.' That situation today need not
exist because of Michalko's Thinkertoys. I can think of no better birthday
present for those individuals whose hobby is mental gymnastics.
This book is the gateway to the Grand Canyon of ideas. It teaches you
how to look at a situation in more ways than you think is humanly
possible, then it shows you some more.
Thinkertoys challenges your ordinary mode of thinking and stretches the
challenge with its linear and intuitive techniques. If you are keen on
such mental sports, the end game is a new, improved mind. You will be
cerebrally sharper, quicker and you will know a few hundred ways to escape
from a problematic situation. The techniques are now available. The choice