Book Review: 'Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius' by Michael Michalko
Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius Michael Michalko Ten Speed Press (1998)
Note: Here’s another business classic, published 13 years ago, that is even more relevant now than ever before.
According to Michalko, what are the best strategies for “cracking” the barriers to human creativity?
Here are few of his insights, accompanied by my annotations.
o Knowing how to see, not just look at: Beware of “the invisibility of the obvious” by being alert, very alert. o Making a thought visible: I agree with Dan Roam that the best way is to use simple drawings. o Thinking fluently: Part of this is “flow” as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi; part is continuity and cohesion. o Making novel combinations: That’s how liquid paper, Velcro, and Mary Kay skin softener were created. o Connecting the unconnected: Just make certain that you are connecting the right dots so that valid causal relationships are revealed. Wet highways do NOT cause rain. However, Mary Kay Ash added a fragrance to leather softner anf then…. o Looking at the other side: Roger Martin calls this “integrative thinking” and it’s multi-dimensional.
By far the best source on the last three strategies is Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures.
o Looking in other worlds: Explore whatever is as yet unexplored, especially what “they say” isn’t worth “bothering with.” o Finding what you are not looking for: Never, ever underestimate the importance of the process of elimination. Marcus Aurelius reminds us that what isn’t an essence reveals more than what is. o Awakening the collaborative spirit: The key is be respectful because that earns trust and credibility, then to acknowledge that help is needed.
If you are already convinced that you cannot think more creatively, you won’t. Henry Ford once observed that those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right.
Cracking Creativity can help you to develop the skills needed to release from within all manner of ideas, perspectives, and insights that (until now) have been suppressed. When we face an especially complicated problem or especially difficult question, he suggests that we ask, “What are the alternatives and options? How should each be evaluated? Where are there possible connections? Perhaps synergies?” Of course, after we think outside the box and come up with really cool stuff, we have to figure out how to get it back into the box. Perhaps that is another book Michalko will one day write.
On average, humans use only 15-17% of the cerebral cortex, that portion of the brain where the most important intellectual transactions occur. No guarantees, of course, but chances are that a careful reading of Cracking Creativity will increase the percentage you use. What are you waiting for?
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Michael Michalko is one of the most highly acclaimed creativity experts in the world. As an officer in the U.S. Army, Michael organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics in Frankfurt, Germany, to research, collect, and categorize all known inventive-thinking methods. His team applied the methods to various NATO military, political, and social problems and produced a variety of breakthrough ideas and creative solutions to new and old problems. Michael later applied these creative-thinking techniques to problems in the corporate world with outstanding successes. The companies he worked with were thrilled with the breakthrough results they achieved, and Michael has since been in the business of developing and teaching creative-thinking workshops and seminars for corporate clients around the world.
He is the author of several best-sellers, including Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques, Thinkpak (A Brainstorming Card Set), a novel creative-thinking tool that is designed to facilitate brainstorming sessions, and Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Geniusesthat describes the common thinking strategies that creative geniuses have used for in the sciences, art, and industry throughout history and shows how we can apply them to become more creative in all domains of our own lives.
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.