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190 of 196 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2003
Cracking Creativity was the first book I read, and reviewed from Michael Michalko, and what a book! Thinkertoys is Michael's first book and my second read. I also own Thinkpack, a creative card deck. All spectacular!
In general, I would say that Thinkertoys is similar to Cracking Creativity, but Thinkertoys offers varied and many different creative techniques, "business creativity for the 90's." Michael explores artists, scientists, and numerous other creative thinkers to which seems the basis of his work. It's amazing the amount of material that was put into this book. Numerous quotes by Sun Tzu, there are also numerous diagrams and puzzles throughout this book. These mindbenders always seem to be related to the chapter, or the discussion at the time. These drawings, puzzles, and brainteasers really convey the message of what this whole book is about. That is what I like about this book is because it shows you, and you have to figure some things out.
The book is set up into 4 different parts. Part One: Linear Thinkertoys, Part Two: Intuitive Thinkertoys, Part three: Group Thinkertoys, Part Four: Endtoys. And in these areas there are numerous techniques, storylines, brainteasers, and flaming hot ideas. It's not hard to try most of the techniques. Most of them merely require a pencil, a piece of paper, a problem or an idea. Michael gives a "Blueprint" (i.e. summary) of every major technique that he covers in the chapters.
I have read other creativity books but Thinkertoys is very exceptional because it seems to me to be more proactive, I see the techniques and I immediately want to try them for myself. Thinkertoys is not just some dry language with endless paragraphs of explanation, as with some creativity books I have read. None of these other books will be mentioned here.
As I have used many of the techniques, I personally like SCAMPER. In addition, I also use "6 Questions" with SCAMPER, and I also use "In what ways might I?" I have set it up and I use like this: For example, I use SCAMPER first on a problem. If I'm stuck on SCAMPER, or the problem, I move to the "6 Questions." If I am still stuck, I then move and use "In what ways might I?" They are all interchangeable, and can be moved or reversed. See,
SCAMPER > 6 Questions > "In what ways might I?"
A powerful combination: SCAMPER
S = Substitute?
C = Create?
A = Add?
M = Modify
P = Put to other uses?
E = Eliminate?
R = Rearrange or Reverse?
6 Questions
Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
In what ways might I?
This is my own little way to use some of the techniques. There is a large amount of techniques in Thinkertoys and some critical analysis may be in order when reading this book for deciding on which techniques to use. Simply, I use what I like most.
Michael Michalko was interviewed one time and asked about the vast amount of techniques available, his response was: "What's important, I feel, is that readers and clients should not try to memorize specific techniques; rather, they should try to remember the basic principles around which my work in creativity is structured." He also responded, and in essence, I think this comment covers Thinkertoys in general, Michael also said: "Once the basic principles are understood, I always encourage my clients to invent their own creative-thinking techniques."
After using quite a few of the techniques in Michael's two books, I have found some of the techniques becoming easier and reflexive. I have found myself seeing ideas and problems very differently without even concentrating on them; also, I have come up with my own ways to use some of techniques.
This book is a special find. Period.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2001
I coach an innovation workshop and provide each participant a copy of this book. The chapter on SCAMPER is worth the price alone. You will find each tool well explained with examples. The "Ideabox" is one of the best tools you can use which also has a section with good examples. The author's second book Cracking Creativity repeats most of the tools with less examples and more theory. I highly recommend this book as a reference for innovation tools.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2000
As a learning solutions designer and trainer and as a targeted innovation facilitator, I have found this book of immense value for almost a decade. It provides step-by-step instructions for linear, lateral, and more intuitive thinking techniques--the closest thing to a step-by-step no-fail cookbook approach. The techniques are even organized (transparent to the non-professional user) to correspond with the KAI style-of-creativity scale. In other words, if you are left-brained OR if creativity means "make the thing BETTER", you will like the techniques at the front of the book. The more naturally "right-brained" you are (i.e. Improve = make it DIFFERENT), the farther toward the back of the book you might want to go. There are also great business examples in this book--they illustrate applied creativity to create value in business...no taint of tutus and crayons and "far out" ideas here...the stuff that alienates some business folk from valuing the relevance of creativity in the workplace.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2000
I picked up a copy of Thinkertoys over a year ago; since then, I've recommended it to many people. The exercises contained within the book are easy to follow, and often make believers out of those who consider themselves 'not the creative type.' I used the 'circle of opportunity' exercise when brainstorming with coworkers in my office...interestingly enough, the coworker who was most resistant to doing the exercise (she considers herself a very analytical, logical sort of thinker) came up with the best idea.
As a marketing/public relations consultant, Thinkertoys sits on my bookshelf right next to my thesaurus. It is an invaluable, easy to understand and enlightening tool.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 1998
It's rare to find a truly practical book, full of exercises to stimulate creative thinking and problem solving. Having used this book to lead small groups in problem-solving, and brainstorm techniques, I can say with confidence the exercises are intriguing, fun and effective. A great book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 1996
A hundred or so ways to some up with more, and thus better, ideas. The creative methods detailed in this book are new and excellent tools for any business or creative person. Michael goes through ways to change your view of a problem, dozens of idea generating methods, sorting and weeding techniques, and group and individual methods. The number and quality of surprising, startling, practical, usable, and results-generating ideas was a shock. And despite the 335 pages, it is not over written, as many large books are. This is a tight, easy reading, tool chest for innovation. And this collection of "Thinkertoys" will be part of your intellectual and problem-solving arsenal for years. As long as there are problems to solve, fun to have, and profits to make (through customers to serve) this book will be a heavenly gift and asset to anyone who reads and uses it
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2005
I am a copywriter at a leading advertising firm and sincerely think that this is the best book ever. It is a Toy. It is a Tool. Never before have i found so much wisdom packed in just a single book. Do not read this book cover to cover. It is not a textbook and will loose its purpose if anyone treats it as such. Work with it. Play with it. I highly recommend this one. A great addition to the bookshelf for any creative professional.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2004
Since reading Thinkertoys my life has changed. Creative thinking has become a challenge to be welcomed rather than a tedious task to be avoided.
At any time, I am able to access principles which produce successful cognative strategies. Making one's way through Mr. Michalko's varied topics and exercises affords a fascinating journey. Part of the fun lies in the author's judicious choice of illustrative examples. Expanding one's ability to think creatively is a talent anyone can acquire. Read this remarkable book.
Note that the first letter of each of the above sentences combine to spell SCAMPER. This has become my favorite blueprint. It could be yours also.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2006
Thinkertoys offers varied and many different creative techniques, "business creativity for the 90's." The author explores artists, scientists, and numerous other creative thinkers to which seems the basis of his work. Quotes from Sun Tzu, numerous diagrams and puzzles throughout this book which enable you to think out of regular thinking cap \ methods.

The different sections are Linear Thinkertoys, Intuitive Thinkertoys, Group Thinkertoys, and Endtoys. Numerous techniques, storylines, brainteasers, and hot ideas only need a pencil and a piece of paper. There is a large amount of techniques in Thinkertoys and some critical analysis may be in order when reading this book for deciding on which techniques to use. Simply, use what you like. After using quite a few of the techniques from the books, the techniques becoming easier and seeing ideas and problems very differently without even concentrating on them.

If you want to enjoy a productive and fun brainstorming session you should use the techniques in this book.

Enjoy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2005
This is my favorite book about creativity and creative thinking. I like it because it is very practical and is actually based on real cognitive science instead of fluff and nonsense. The author knows this field inside out after years of applying his techniques in the military, CIA and the corporate world.
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