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From the PublisherPraise for Michael Michalko’s Thinkertoys: “Designed to change the way you think.”
--Wall Street Journal
With more than two years of testing in groups, the author of Thinkertoys brings us his pack of brainstorming cards. He has found the elements in thi s deck to be uniquely successful in stimulating creative, innovative ideas time and time again. Color-coded cards divided into nine key groups, boxed with instruction booklet.
The Thinkpak Cards
Thinkpak consists of 56 cards:
• Card 1 is an easy-reference list of the nine principle strategies.
• Card 2 outlines the basic techniques for using Thinkpak.
• Cards 3 through 47 are idea stimulators. If you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. These cards are designed to change your thinking habits. You can use them randomly or systematically to stimulate your imagination and generate ideas.
• Cards 48 through 56 are techniques that help you evaluate your ideas.
To stimulate your imagination, pick any subject--from a paper clip to reinventing your life--and ask yourself how it can be changed, improved, or made into something else. Shuffle the idea stimulators (cards 3 through 47), draw a card at random, and try to apply the questions to your subject. If the card is not applicable, keep drawing until you find one that is, but be creative in your interpretation and thoughts. List your ideas as you go, and keep drawing cards until you’re satisfied with the ideas you’ve created.
Sometimes, it takes a five-alarm wake-up call to jolt people out of their complacency. The chairperson of a nonprofit board wanted to energize her board members out of their lethargy. At the beginning of a board meeting, she asked the members to imagine that they are fired. Then she asked them to reapply for the board. This shocked the board members and forced them to rethink their knowledge and competencies and, most important, what they need to do to improve.
Another technique for stimulating your imagination begins with separating the idea stimulators into nine piles--one for substitute, one for combine, and so on. Shuffle each pile and draw one card from each. Read the cards and discard any that are not applicable to your subject. Focusing on the questions that are left, try to apply your thoughts about these questions to your subject.
An engineer was installing a giant generator in an excavated area. This job was going to be expensive, as it required a huge crane that cost about $4,500. Wanting to explore alternatives, he drew questions that prompted him to think about how he could eliminate something and adapt something from nature. He got his breakthrough thinking about icebergs. He ordered two truckloads of block ice placed in the excavated area, then pushed the generator on top of the ice. When it melted, his generator was neatly installed at a nominal cost.
After isolating the subject or challenge you want to think about, go straight through the idea stimulator sequentially, from card 3 to card 47, one at a time, thinking about the questions on each card. They will make you think up as well as about something. If a question isn’t pertinent or doesn’t prompt an idea, skip to the next. Spend one or two minutes per card and list your ideas as they occur. When you’ve gone through the entire deck, review your ideas. Try combining the first two ideas into one. Then take the third and try to integrate it into that new idea, and so on. Finally, select and evaluate your top ideas.
A furniture chain store used this method to brainstorm ideas for expanding its retail traffic. Inspired by the idea stimulators in adapt, magnify, and put to other uses, they came up with the idea of renting Christmas trees. “The spirit of Christmas can’t be bought, but for $10 you can rent it,” read their ad. For $20 total--$10 for the rental plus a $10 deposit--the store rented you a Douglas fir that would have sold for $50 or more. After the holidays, when customers returned the trees, the store would mulch them for a customer’s garden, or donate the mulch to local parks. Each renter also received a coupon for a free four-year-old blue spruce sapling, available the first week in April. That’s selling! Just by being extra nice to its customers, the store made it worth their while to visit not once but three separate times.
What is the essence of the subject? Think about your subject and then determine which principle is appropriate and work with those cards. For example, you could simplify a process by eliminating and substituting to create something different.
Millions of people perish every year because they simply don’t have clean water to drink. Systems to clean water are costly and require electricity and spare parts. Many third world countries are unable to afford or access the systems. Danish designer Torben Vestergaard Frandsen worked for years on ways to simplify a water purifier. His goal was to create a purifier that would omit moving parts and eliminate the use of electricity, which does not exist in many areas in the third world.
Frandsen realized that you needed some kind of force to implement any kind of water filtering. He chose to work with the simplest force of all--the human ability to create suction, which even babies have--and developed an incredible water-purifying device called the LifeStraw. When a person sucks water throughout the straw, it moves through textile filters and other media in the straw’s chambers, killing and withholding bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and improving the taste of the water. For the remarkably low price of $2, the LifeStraw provides the user with clean water for about one year before it has to be replaced.
Posted September 11, 2006
When I first used this deck of cards I had to rush to my computer to start listing all the ideas that popped up in my mind almost involuntarily. I can see this as an excellent tool for designers, product managers and entrepreneurs as invaluable. If one is a fine artist looking for a sublime idea this may not be ticket.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 14, 2010
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Posted November 6, 2008
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