Thinkertoys’ 10 Tips to Become an Idea Person

In an age where new ideas quickly becomes commodity, creativity is a must. It is creativity that continuously give us new ideas to keep us ahead in the competition. Regarding this, I recently found an interesting book: Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. This book contains a lot of actionable ideas on how to become an idea person and get our creative juice flow.

In chapter 2 of the book, Michalko gives us 10 tips to become an idea person which I find very useful and thought-provoking. In his words, these 10 tips are about “effective ways to pump your mind for ideas” which are also “exercises that will encourage you to behave like an idea person”.

Here are the summarized explanation of the 10 tips:

1. Set an idea quota

Set yourself an idea quota for a challenge you are working on, such as five new ideas every day for a week. Having a quota will force you to actively generate ideas and alternatives rather than waiting for them to occur to you.

2. Get tone

Fighter pilots say, “I’ve gone tone” when their radar locks onto a target. That’s the point at which the pilot and plane are totally focused on the target. “Getting tone” in everyday life means paying attention to what’s happening around you. Paying attention to the world around you will help you develop the extraordinary capacity to look at mundane things and see the miraculous.

3. Don’t be a Dukes of habit

Deliberately program changes into your daily life. Make a list of things you do by habit. Next, take the listed habits, one by one, and consciously try to change them for whatever period of time.

For example: take a different route to work, change your working hours, make new friends, and read fiction if you normally read non-fiction.

4. Feed your head

Creative thinkers read to feed their minds new information and ideas. Here are some ideas to pump your mind when you read:

  • Select your readings carefully.
  • Take notes.
  • Create outlines.
  • Read biographies.
  • Read how-to books on any subject.
  • Read magazines on varied subjects.
  • Think as you read (search for new solutions to problems).

5. Do a content analysis

This is a method of trend spotting. Observe what is going on around you and find the patterns behind it. Here some ways to do content analysis:

  • Scan your junk mail before you discard it. But let it collect for a month or two before scanning it. 
  • Read the local newspapers and shopping news giveaways.
  • Actively observe popular cultures.
  • Attend as many business conferences, seminars, and lectures as you can.
  • Listen to a different radio station every week to get a variety of perspectives.
  • Make it a practice to scan the week’s television schedule, and then tape the programs that interest you.

When you perceive trends and patterns of interest, begin to pump your mind for ideas, opportunities, and business possibilities.

6. Create a Brainbank

Collect and store ideas like a pack rat. Keep a container of ideas and idea starters. Begin collecting interesting advertisements, quotes, designs, ideas, questions, cartoons, pictures, doodles, and words that might trigger ideas by association. When you are looking for new ideas, shake up the container and pull out two or more items at random to see if they can somehow trigger a thought.

7. Be a travel junkie

Whenever you’re feeling stale and bored, go to a store, trade show, exhibition, library, museum, flea market, craft show, old folks’ home, toy ship, or high school. Pick up something at random and create connections and relationships in your mind with the object and your problem. Wander around with an open mind and wait for something to catch your attention.

8. Capture your thoughts

You have to record your own ideas. Your thoughts will disappear unless you write them down (see also 4 Simple Ways to Never Lose Your Ideas).

9. Think right

Consciously work to make your thinking more fluent and more flexible. Fluency is the number of ideas, while flexibility refers to creativity.

Making lists is a powerful way to increase your thinking fluency. To increase flexibility, think about unusual ways to work with the thing you are dealing with.

10. Keep an idea log

Maintain an idea log. Each section could be devoted to separate aspects of your business and personal life. Reviewing your recorded ideas periodically is a good way to titillate your imagination. Each time you review them, you will begin to search out connections between a recorded idea and your present situation or experience (see also How to Develop Your Ideas Exponentially).


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  3. Wow! Interesting list.
    I personally feel 2,4 and 8 work best for me.
    Maybe there can be more emphasis on external sources of inspiration like eg.

  4. Vincent, thanks for the information! I didn’t think about external sources of inspiration.

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