Monday, May 28, 2007

How Experts Make Decisions

In Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, Gary Klein explains how experts make reliable snap decisions over novices.

RPD Model
The recognition-primed decision (RPD) model integrates two processes:

  1. How decision makers size up the situation
  2. How they evaluate the course of action by imagining it

There's 3 basic variations of the RPD:

  1. Simple match - how have I solved this before? This is a typical case. The decision maker recognizes a situation and knows the goals, cues, expectancies, and actions. "if ... then,"
  2. Diagnosing the situation - which situation is this closest to this? This doesn't match a typical case, or it maps onto multiple cases. The decision maker needs to figure out which case is a closest match. "if(???) ... then,"
  3. Evaluating courses of action - what's the best action? This can involve adjusting an action or ruling options out. "if ... then(???)"

While the RPD model sounds obvious, it's different from earlier decision theories.

Rational Choice Strategy
In the rationale choice strategy, you define the evaluation dimensions, weight each one, rate each option on each dimension, multiply the weightings, total up the scores, and determine the best option.

RPD vs. Rational Choice

  • If you can't trust someone to make a big judgement, such as which option is best, why trust all the little judgements that go into the rational choice strategy?
  • There's usually not enough time or information to make rational choice strategy work.
  • The rational choice strategy is not going to ensure that novices make good choices.
  • The rational choice strategy is usually not helpful for experienced decision makers.
  • The rational choice strategy can be useful in working with teams, to calibrate everyone's perspectives on the options.

Key Take Aways

  • RPD quickly evaluates courses of actions by imagining how they'll be carried out, not by formal analysis and comparison.
  • Be skeptical of formal decision making methods, since they're not what most people use in real scenarios.
  • Be sensitive to when you need to compare options and when you don't. When you're new to a situation, you may need to cast a wide net. Other times, you can rely on your expertise and drill down on a smaller set of alternatives.
  • RPD is focused on being poised to act rather than stuck in analysis paralysis until all evaluations have been completed.

My Related Posts

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Satisficing to Get Things Done

In Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions, Gary Klein writes:

The difference between singular and comparitive evaluation is linked to the research of Herbert Simon, who won a Nobel Prize for economics. Simon (1957) identified a decision strategy he calls satisficing: Selecting the first option that works. Satisficing is different from optimizion, which means trying to come up with the best strategy. Optimizing is hard and it takes a long time. Satisficing is more efficient. The singular evaluation strategy is based on satisficing. Simon used the concept of satisficing to describe the decision behavior of businesspeople.

The key here is that satisficing means figuring out what a satisfactory outcome would be and then finding ways to achieve it.

Gary goes on to point out that this is how experienced fireground commanders can quickly make effective decisions under extreme time pressure. Rather than explore all possible options and evaluate their trade-offs, they quickly run a mental simulation in their mind. If they find the option won't work, they move on to the next.

The key here is "experienced" fireground commanders. Novices need to evaluate options and their trade-offs to make effective decisions, which is a much more time consuming process.

Key Take Aways

  1. Experts avoid optimizing a single value -- they look for a best fit against a set of criteria, and take the first fit against that (very quickly in their head).
  2. Novices don’t have this option because they don’t know the options, don’t know the important criteria, and don’t have the benefit of experience to evaluate against.

Additional Resources

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fear of Becoming Who You Truly Are

Is the fear of failure holding you back? Maybe not. Maybe it's actually the fear of success. In The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield writes about how we fear becoming who we truly are.

You're Capable of More
Pressfield writes:

We fear discovering more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us.

Why Fear Success?
Pressfield writes:

We fear this because, if it's true, then we become estranged from all we know. ... We will lose our friends and family who will no longer recognize us. We will wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space, with nothing and no one to hold on to.

But is it really that bad?
Pressfield reveals a surprise:

Of course, this is exactly what happens. But here's the trick. We wind up in space, but no alone. Instead we are tapped into an unquenchable, undepletable, inexhaustible source of wisdom, consciousness, companionship. Yeah, we lose friends. But we find friends too. And they're better friends, truer friends. And
we're better and truer to them.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • That little voice inside that tells you that you're capable of more is right.
  • It's a path of self-discovery that can sometimes be lonely.
  • As you become who you're really capable of, you'll lose some friends, but find new ones.

How to Overcome Resistance

In The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield writes about Resistance:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

... Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn't write, a painter who doesn't paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Steven writes that the principles we use to do our day jobs, apply to our artistic aspirations:

1. We show up everyday
2. We show up no matter what.
3. We stay on the job all day.
4. We are committed over the long haul.
5. The stakes for us are high and real.
6. We accept remuneration of our labor.
7. We do not overidentify with our jobs.
8. We master the technique of our jobs.
9. We have a sense of humor about our jobs.
10. We receive blame or praise in the real world.

I think there's a lot to be said for showing up, consistently taking action, and making little improvements over time. Maybe my inner artist isn't waiting for brilliant inspiration after all. He just wants a routine and some practice.

My Related Posts

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

How do you beat Amazon? You narrow the focus. Rather than try to be the best online bookstore, you become the best business books site. This strategy can be counter-intuitive. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is full of insightful nuggets you can use.

What I like most about the book is that it gives concrete examples that resonate and it's advice you can apply whether you're improving your own personal brand or something bigger. It contains a lot of timeless principles so the time you spend learning can payoff over the years to come. I like to think I have more branding time ahead of me than behind me.

Contents at a Glance

  1. The Law of Expansion
  2. The Law of Contraction
  3. The Law of Publicity
  4. The Law of Advertising
  5. The Law of the Word
  6. The Law of Credentials
  7. The Law of Quality
  8. The Law of the Category
  9. The Law of the Name
  10. The Law of Extensions
  11. The Law of Fellowship
  12. The Law of the Generic
  13. The Law of the Company
  14. The Law of Subbrands
  15. The Law of Siblings
  16. The Law of Shape
  17. The Law of Color
  18. The Law of Borders
  19. The Law of Consistency
  20. The Law of Change
  21. The Law of Mortality
  22. The Law of Singularity

The 11 Immutable Laws of Internet Branding

  1. The Law of Either / Or
  2. The Law of Interactivity
  3. The Law of the Common Name
  4. The Law of the Proper Name
  5. The Law of Singularity
  6. The Law of Internet Advertising
  7. The Law of Globalism
  8. The Law of Time
  9. The Law of Vanity
  10. The Law of Divergence
  11. The Law of Transformation

Additional Resources

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Idea Techniques (Intuitive)

In the book, THINKERTOYS, Michael Michalko, presents sets of techniques for generating ideas. In my previous posts, I covered Group A linear techniques, Group B linear techniques, and Group C linear techniques for ideas. In this post, I’ll cover the Intuitive techniques. The Intuitive techniques help you tap your unconscious to find ideas that you already have.


  • Chilling Out (Relaxation) - Relaxation techniques designed to clear your mind.
  • Blue Roses (Blue Roses) - Ways to use intuitive, and how to develop it.
  • The Three B's (Incubation) - Describes incubation and demonstrates how to use it.
  • Rattlesnakes and Roses (Analogies) - How to use personal, direct, symbolic, and fantasy analogies to originate ideas.
  • Stone Soup (Fantasy questions) - Coaches you to direct your imagination with fantasy questions and how to use your fantasies to generate ideas.
  • True and False (Fantasy questions) - How to think in terms of contradictions and paradoxes.
  • Dreamscape (Dreams) - How to capture the ideas in your dreams.
  • Da Vinci's Technique (Drawing) - How to use freehand scribbling, doodling and drawing to inspire ideas.
  • Dali's Technique (Hypnogogic imagery) - How to originate surrealistic imagery, and how to find the associative link between the images and your challenges.
  • Not Kansas (Imagery) - How to direct your imagination with guided imagery scenarios to find ideas in unlikely places.
  • The Shadow (Psycho synthesis) - How to create your own spiritual adviser to help you solve your challenges.
  • The Book of the Dead (Hieroglyphics) How to find ideas in the hieroglyphics from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

The following are blueprints for the techniques.

Chilling Out

  1. A quiet environment. A quiet room or a pleasant, quiet place outdoors.
  2. A specific mental technique.
  3. A passive attitude. Empty your mind. Do not dwell on thoughts as they pass through your consciousness.
  4. A comfortable position. Select a position that will allow you to remain still for at least fifteen minutes without falling asleep.

Blue Roses
Two basic principles of intuition are: It must be developed, and it should be incorporated with reason.

  1. It must be developed. To condition your intuitive mind, try asking some "yes" and "no" questions to which you already know the answers. Do the same with choices. Start by thinking about a choice you have already made, and imagine the options you had when you made the choice. As you think of the choice you have already made, observe the word, phrase, image, or symbol that represents the choice. Try making a few simple choices you haven't made before.
  2. Combine intuition with reason.

The Three B's

  1. Identify. Identify a challenge worth working on and think of the consequences of solving it. If you can envision a world in which your challenge is solved, you will be pulled subconsciously toward a constructive, creative answer.
  2. Prepare. Collect and gather all available information and literature about your challenge. Read, talk to others, ask questions, and do as much research as you can. Consciously work on the challenge as intensely as you can, until you are satisfied that you have prepared as thoroughly as possible.
  3. Instruct. Instruct your brain to find the solution to the problem. Close by saying: "Okay, find the solution to this problem. I'll be back in two days for the answer" or "Let me know the minute you work it out."
  4. Incubate. Let go of the problem. Don't work on it. Forget it for a while. This period may be long or short. Take a walk or a shower, go to a movie, or sleep on it. Incubation has to occur and it will.
  5. Eureka! It may take five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks, five months, or whatever, but insight will occur.

Rattlesnakes and Roses

  1. State your challenge.
  2. Choose a key word or phrase in the challenge.
  3. Choose a parallel or distant field.
  4. List the images that you associate with your chosen field, then choose one or more particularly rich ones.
  5. Look for similarities and connections between the two components of your analogy. Think easy. Let your thoughts come and go as they wish.

Stone Soup
The easiest way to begin is by saying: "I need fresh and novel ideas to solve my challenge."

  1. Stipulate your challenge.
  2. List as many "what if" scenarios as you can.
  3. Try to answer the questions posed by your scenarios.

True and False

  1. Problem.
  2. Paradox. Convert the problem into a paradox. The question to ask is: "What is the opposite or contradiction of the problem? Then, imagine both existing at the same time."


  1. Formulate a question about your challenge. Write the question several times, and then, before you drift off to sleep, repeat it to yourself several more times.
  2. If you don't remember your dreams, wake up thirty minutes earlier. This increases your chance of waking during a dreaming period, rather than after one.
  3. Record the dream in a dream journal. Keep the journal next to your bed, and record as many details as you remember.
  4. After the dream is recorded, ask yourself the following questions: how many people, places and events in the dream related to my question?, who were the key players in the dream? How does this relate to my question? does the dream change the nature of my question? what elements in this dream can help solve my problem? what associations does the dream conjure up that might help with my problem? what is the answer from the dream?
  5. Take one or two dream images or ideas and free-associate from them.
  6. Keep the diary current.

Da Vinci's Technique

  1. Review a challenge you are working on.
  2. Relax.
  3. Allow your intuition to offer images, scenes, and symbols that represent your situation. You do not need to know what the drawing will look like before you draw it.
  4. Provide a format for the challenge by drawing a boundary. This can be any size and shape you wish, and can be carefully or roughly drawn. The purpose is to separate the challenge from its surroundings and allow you to focus on it.
  5. Draw as your mind wants to draw.
  6. If one drawing does not seem enough, take another piece of paper and do another one, and another - as many as you need.
  7. Examine your drawing.
  8. Write down the first word that comes to mind for each image, symbol, scribble, line, or structure.
  9. Combine all the words and write a paragraph. Free-associate, writing whatever thoughts come to your mind. Compare the paragraph with your drawing.
  10. Consider how what you wrote relates to your challenge. Has your viewpoint changed? Do you have new ideas? New insights? Surprises from your subconscious? What parts puzzle you? What's out of place?

Dali's Technique

  1. Think about your challenge.
  2. Totally relax your body. Try to achieve the deepest muscle relaxation you can.
  3. Quiet your mind. Clear your mind of chatter.
  4. Quiet your eyes. Achieve a total absence of any kind of voluntary attention.
  5. Record your experiences immediately after they occur. The images will be mixed and unexpected and will recede rapidly. They could be patterns, clouds of colors, or objects.
  6. Look for the associative link. write down the first things that occur to you after your experience. Ask question such as: what puzzles me? is there any relationship to the challenge? any new insights? what's out of place? what disturbs me? what do the images remind me of? what are the similarities? what analogies can I make? what associations can I make? what do the images resemble?

Not Kansas

  1. Relax.
  2. Ask your unconscious for an answer to your challenge.
  3. Take a guided imagery journey.
  4. Accept whatever messages emerge.
  5. Use your imagination to make the images as clear and vivid as you can.
  6. If confusing images occur, conjure up others.
  7. Look for qualities, patterns, relationships, and clues.

The Shadow
To invoke your personal mentor, perform the following:

  1. Let go of your tension.
  2. Imagine your body is surrounded with soft, glowing white light. Let the light comfort you and bathe you in its soft radiance.
  3. Now imagine that you are walking into a favorite place (house, boat, mountain, forest, room, whatever). Picture the details. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? What sounds do you hear?
  4. Picture your spiritual mentor walking toward you. Say to your mentor: "Be my guide. Introduce me to solutions and to new ideas. Lead me to the resolution to my problem." Give your full attention to what the mentor says or does, just as much as you would if you met your mentor in the outer world. This will keep the experience from remaining a passive fantasy.
  5. Bring the conversation to a close. Have your guide say to you, "Listen, I'm here for you. Call me up whenever you need me. Know that I'll help you whenever you need me." Feel yourself trusting that. Open your eyes and return to the outside world. People have different experiences in meeting their guides. Don't be surprised if your guide seems eccentric or has a sense of humor or a flair for the dramatic.

The Book of the Dead

  1. Write out the challenge you want to solve.
  2. Choose one of the three sets of hieroglyphics.
  3. Scan the illustration of hieroglyphics and then write out the challenge again.
  4. Empty your mind of all distractions and concentrate on the challenge.
  5. Open your eyes and "translate" each line of hieroglyphics.
  6. As you interpret each hieroglyphic, free-associate from it. Ask questions such as: what is this?, why did they use this? what could this mean? what does the frequency of this figure mean? what figure comes closets to my challenge? who could this be? what does this remind me of? Among these questions, one may stand out as the key to resolving your challenge.
  7. Write out your interpretations. Search for clues, new ideas, insights, and new lines of speculation. Combine the interpretations for the various lines into one all inclusive interpretation. See if you can combine the various line interpretations into a narrative that may contain the solution to the challenge.

Key Take Aways

  • It seems to me that the keys to using intuition are being open to it and being in a relaxed state. Stress seems counter-productive to intuitive modes.
  • My favorite techniques are Stone Soup and The Shadow. I like thinking through “what if” scenarios, and I like the metaphor of personal guides.
  • I see parallels across techniques that use personal mentors. While the means may vary (spirit, mentor, power animal), the end remains the same – tap into your higher part of your unconscious.

Additional Resources

My Related Posts

Idea Techniques (Group C)

In the book, THINKERTOYS, Michael Michalko, presents sets of techniques for generating ideas. In my previous posts, I covered Group A linear techniques and Group B linear techniques for ideas. In this post, I’ll cover Group C. The Group C techniques help you change perspectives so you can gain new insights or breakthroughs.


  • Brutethink (Random stimulation) - Forces a connection between two dissimilar concepts to create a new idea.
  • Hall of Fame (Forced Connection) - Produces ideas and insights by creating a relationship between your challenge and the words and thoughts of the world's great thinkers.
  • Board of Directors (Forced connection) - Uses a fantasy board of powerhouse business leaders and innovators who will assist you in overcoming your business challenges.
  • Circle of Opportunity (Forced connection) - Generates ideas by forcing a connective link between common attributes and your challenge.
  • Ideatoons (Pattern language) - A way to get ideas by using abstract symbols instead of words.
  • Clevor Trevor (Talk to a stranger) - How to get ideas by increasing the number and kind of people you talk to about your challenges.

The following are blueprints for the techniques.


  1. When you are looking for a fresh approach to a challenge, bring in a random word.
  2. Think of a variety of things that are associated with your chosen word.
  3. Force connections.
  4. List your ideas.

Hall of Fame

  1. Create your personal Hall of Fame. Select those people, living or dead, real or fictional, that appeal to you for one reason or another.
  2. When you have a challenge, conslue your Hall of Fame. Select an adviser and choose a favorite quotation.
  3. Ponder the quotation. Write down your thoughts, regardless of appropriateness to the challenge. If you think it, write it, and try to use these thoughts to generate more relevant thoughts. The basic rules are strive for quantity, defer judgement, freewheel, and seek to combine and improve your thoughts.
  4. Choose the thought or combination of thoughts that holds the most promise.
  5. Allow yourself five to ten minutes to come up with new ideas.

Board of Directors

  1. Select the three to five business movers and shakers, living or dead, whom you admire most.
  2. Get photographs of your Board (these could be photocopied from magazines), and pin them on your wall in a prominent spot. These photographs will constantly remind you of talent at your disposal.
  3. Research your heroes. Hit the library, read their biographies and autobiographies, read what their critics say about them; in short, read everything about your heroes you can get your hands on.
  4. Take notes on your favorite passages, perhaps about obstacles and how they overcame them, or anything that strikes you as relevant and interesting. Pay particular attention to the creative techniques they employed to solve problems, their secrets, what made them stand out, what made them extraordinary, and so on. Keep a separate file on each hero.

Circle of Opportunity

  1. State the challenge you want to solve.
  2. Draw a circle and number it like a clock (1 through 12.)
  3. Select any twelve common attributes, or choose twelve attributes specific to your challenge. Write the attributes next to the numbers on your circle.
  4. Throw one die to choose the first attribute to focus on.
  5. Throw both dice to choose the second attribute.
  6. Consider the attributes both separately and combined.
  7. Search for a link between your associations and your challenge.


  1. Divide your challenge into attributes.
  2. Describe each attribute by drawing an abstract graphic symbol.
  3. Place all of the file cards on a table with the graphic symbols.
  4. Look for ideas and thoughts that you can link to your challenge.
  5. When stalemated, you may want to add other Ideatoons or even start an entirely new set.

Clever Trevor

  1. Talk to someone who is outside your field and from an entirely different background.
  2. Seek out idea-oriented people. Surround yourself with people who are creatively alert, who have a keen interest in life and are excited about being alive, who are naive about your business but not stupid or ignorant, who have a great wit and see the absurdity in things, who have different value systems than yours, who travel and pay attention to what they observe, who are voracious readers.
  3. Draw out the creativity in strangers you meet casually.
  4. Listen.

Key Take Aways

  • My favorite techniques from this set are Hall of Fame and Board of Directors. I really like the ideas of using reference examples such as your personal heroes in business and life. While they are a bit of work up front, I can see how they get easier over time. Imagine the personal cabinet of advisors you build over time to draw upon whenever you choose.
  • I think some of the concepts in Smart Questions: Learn to Ask the Right Questions for Powerful Resultsparallel the Clever Trevor technique.
Additional Resources

My Related Posts

Idea Techniques (Group B)

In the book THINKERTOYS, Michael Michalko, presents sets of techniques for generating ideas. In my previous post, I covered Group A linear techniques for ideas. In this post, I'll cover Group B. The Group B linear techniques arranges information in a way so that you move in determined steps toward a new idea.


  • Tug-of-War (Force field analysis) – How to graph a challenge’s positive and negative forces and then maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.
  • Idea Box (Morphological analysis) – How to identify and box the parameters of a challenge to quickly produce thousands of new ideas.
  • Idea Grid (FCB grid) – How to find new ideas and creative strategies using a grid to organize complex masses of information.
  • Lotus Blossom (Diagramming) – How to diagram obstacles and then use them to reach your goal.
  • Phoenix (Questions) – How to use a checklist of problem-solving questions – originated by the CIA – to guide your thinking.
  • The Great Transpacific Airline and Storm Door Company (Matrix) – How to create a keyword index and mix and match the key words in a matrix to produce new ideas.
  • Future Fruit (Future scenarios) – How to project a future scenario in order to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

The following are blueprints for the techniques.


  1. Write the challenge you are trying to solve.
  2. Describe the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario.
  3. List the conditions of the situation.
  4. Note the “tug-of-war.” As you list the conditions, you will find the forces pushing you to the best case and those pulling you toward catastrophe. Pit each condition against the opposite of the continuum by specifying push and pull powers.

Idea Box

  1. Specify your challenge.
  2. Select the parameter of your challenge.
  3. List variations.
  4. Try different combinations.

Idea Grid

  1. Create two rows for a grid: High Involvement and Low Involvement.
  2. Create two columns in the grid: Think and Feel.

The FCB Grid enables you to compress large amounts of complex information.

  • High involvement – represents perceptions of expensive products such as cars and boats.
  • Low involvement – represents less costly products such as ordinary household products.
  • Think - represents verbal, numerical, analytic, cognitive products for which the consumer desired information and data. For example, automobiles, boats, computers, cameras and so on.
  • Feel – represents products that appeal to a consumer’s emotional needs and desires such as travel, beauty, cosmetics and so on.

You place your product on the grid by researching both the product and its potential market. For instance, life insurance would fall in the High Involvement / Think quadrant, insecticide in the Low Involvement/Think, and costume jewelry in the Low Involvement / Feel quadrant. The FCB Grid allows you to:

  • Identify holes in the market.
  • Predict the demand for new product ideas.
  • Formulate an advertising strategy.
  • Reposition your business or product.

Lotus Blossom

  1. Draw a Lotus Blossum diagram and write the problem or idea in the center of the diagram.
  2. Write the significant components or themes of your subject in the circles surrounding the center circle, labeled A to H.
  3. Use the ideas written in the circles as the central themes for the surrounding lotus blossom petals or boxes.
  4. Continue the process until the lotus blossom diagram is completed.


  1. Write your challenge. Isolate the challenge you want to think about and commit yourself to an answer, if not the answer, by a certain date.
  2. Ask questions. Use the Phoenix checklist to dissect the challenge into as many different ways as you can.
  3. Record your answers. Information requests, solutions, and ideas for evaluation and analysis.

The Problem Checklist

  • Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
  • What benefits will you gain by solving the problem?
  • What is the unknown?
  • What is it you don’t understand?
  • What is the information you have?
  • What isn’t the problem?
  • Is the information sufficient? Or is it insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory?
  • Should you draw a diagram of the problem? A figure?
  • Where are the boundaries of the problem?
  • Can you separate the various parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships of the parts of the problem?
  • What are the constants (things that can’t be changed) of the problem?
  • Have you seen this problem before?
  • Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form?
  • Do you know a related problem?
  • Try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown.
  • Suppose you find a problem related to your that has already been solved. Can you use it? Can you use its method?
  • Can you restate your problem? Can you use its method?
  • Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it? More general? More specific? Can the rules be changed?
  • What are the best, worst, and most probably cases you can imagine?

The Plan Checklist

  • Can you solve the whole problem? Part of the problem?
  • What would you like the resolution to be? Can you picture it?
  • How much of the unknown can you determine?
  • Can you derive something useful from the information you have?
  • Have you used all the information?
  • Have you taken into account all essential notions in the problem?
  • Can you separate the steps in the problem-solving process? Can you determine the correctness of each step?
  • What creative-thinking techniques can you use to generate ideas? How many different techniques?
  • Can you see the result? How many different kinds of results can you see?
  • How many different ways have you tried to solve the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • Can you intuit the solution? Can you check the result?
  • What should be done? How should it be done?
  • Where should it be done?
  • When should it be done?
  • Who should do it?
  • What do you need to do at this time?
  • Who will be responsible for what?
  • Can you use the problem to solve some other problem?
  • What is the unique set of qualities that makes this problem what it is and none other?
  • What milestone can best mark your progress? How will you know when you are successful?

The Great Transpacific Airline and Storm Door Company

  1. Ask “What is our business?” and “What should our business be?”
  2. Define and organize your business according to products or services, markets, functions, and technologies.
  3. Under each variable, list the key words for the business: Key words describe the products or services, markets, functions and technologies in your industry.
  4. Mix and match your products, markets, functions, services and technologies in various ways to explore new ideas.

Future Fruit

  1. Identify a particular problem in your business.
  2. State a particular decision that has to be made.
  3. Identify the forces (economic, technological, product lines, competition, and so on) that have an impact on the decision.
  4. Build for or five future scenarios based on the principal forces. Use all the available information and develop scenarios that will give you as many different and plausible possibilities as a pinball in play.
  5. Develop the scenarios into stories or narratives by varying the forces that impact the decision. Change the forces (interest rates escalate, a key performer quits, need for your product or service disappears, etc.) and combine them into different patterns to describe the possible consequences of your decision over the next five years.
  6. Search for business opportunities within each scenario. Then explore the links between opportunities across the range of your scenarios, and actively search for new ideas.

Key Take Aways

  • My favorite example is the Tug-of-War. It's about reframing and changing the position of negative forces to neutralize thier impact and empower you.
  • Fitting your challenges into an Idea Box forces you to find new meanings and connections.
  • I like the Idea Grid's ability to compress information. I find compressed information is easier to quickly see new patterns and possbilities.
  • I had a hard time following how to do the Lotus Blossum, but once I figured it out, I like how it helps you track the whole systems of interacting elements.
  • I like the lightweight and question-driven appraoch to Pheonix.

Additional Resources

My Related Posts

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Idea Techniques (Group A)

In the book THINKERTOYS, Michael Michalko, presents sets of techniques for generating ideas. In this post, I'll cover the Group A linear techniques. The Group A linear techniques reorganize known information in different ways by listing, dividing, combining, or manipulating it to give you new entry points for solving problems.


  • False Faces (Reversal) – How to find ideas b y reversing conventional assumptions.
  • Slice and Dice (Attribute listing) – How to get new ideas from a challenge’s attributes.
  • Cherry Split (Fractionism) – How to get ideas by dividing a challenge into two or more components and then reassembling them in new and different ways.
  • Think Bubbles (Mind mapping) – How to map your thoughts so as to spark new ideas.
  • SCAMPER (Questions) – How to manipulate what exists into something different.

The following are blueprints for the techniques.

False Faces

  1. State your challenge.
  2. List your assumptions.
  3. Challenge your fundamental assumptions.
  4. Reverse each assumption. Write down the opposite of each one.
  5. Record differing viewpoints that might prove useful to you.
  6. Ask yourself how to accomplish each reversal. List as many useful viewpoints and ideas as you can.

Slice and Dice

  1. State your challenge.
  2. Analyze the challenge and list as many attributes as you can.
  3. Take each attribute, one at a time, and try to think of ways to change or improve it. Ask “How else can this be accomplished?” and “Why does this have to be this way?”
  4. Strive to make your thinking both fluent and flexible.

Cherry Split

  1. State the essence of your challenge in two words. For example, “Cherry picking.”
  2. Split the challenge into two separate units. For example, one unit is “cherry” and the other is “picking.”
  3. Split each attribute into two more attributes. For instances, “cherry” is split into “delicate” and “separate,” “picking” is split into “remove” and “transport.”
  4. Continue splitting the attributes until you feel that you have enough to work with. For example, “delicate” into “damaged” and “blemished,” “separate” into “selecting” and “closeness to each other,” “remove” into “touch and hold” and “picking,” and “transport” into “ground” and “boxes.”
  5. Examine each attribute for ideas. Big ideas can dwell in the most insignificant attribute.
  6. Try reassembling the attributes. New combinations introduce new perspectives and ideas.

Think Bubbles

  1. Organization. Map out the information the way you think it. Use a whiteboard or paper or anything you like.
  2. Keywords. Ignore all relevant words and phrases and concentrate only on expressing the essentials, and what associations these “essences” excite in your mind.
  3. Association. Make connections, links and relationships between seemingly isolated and unconnected pieces of information.
  4. Clustering. The map’s organization comes close to the way your mind clusters concepts, making the mapped information more accessible to the brain.
  5. Conscious involvement. Making the map requires you to concentrate on your challenge.

Scamper is a checklist of idea-spurring questions:

  • Substitue something.
  • Combine it with something else.
  • Adapt something to it.
  • Modify or Magnify it.
  • Put it to some other use.
  • Eliminate something.
  • Reverse or Rearrange it.


  1. Isolate the challenge or subject you want to think about.
  2. Ask SCAMPER questions about each step of the challenge or subject and see what new ideas emerge

Key Take Aways

  • I like how False Faces helps you to challenge your assumptions.
  • Slice and dice is a great way to walk the attributes and look for improvement opportunities an attribute at a time.
  • I like how Cherry Split helps you break problems down in a systematic way. It’s easy to look at the problem in new ways.
  • In SCAMPER, I like the simplistic but effective idea generation framework of questions.

Additional Resources

My Related Posts


THINKERTOYS, by Michael Michalko, is a hand-book of creative thinking techniques. It's not a book you read, it's a book you do. I’m always looking for ways to get an edge on life. Improving my thinking and innovation seems to be among the best ways. Whenever I’m stuck, I change my approach. To change my approach, I need to think of new ways to look at the problem. THINKERTOYS is the latest way I’m filling my head with specific techniques for producing results.

Working Backwards From the Fish
Rather than a catalog of possible techniques, the author uses a fishing metaphor. He starts with the ideas (fish) and worked backwards to each creator (the fisherman). Then he shows the techniques that "caught" the idea.

Blueprints, Stories and Examples
What I like about the book is that there’s a blueprint for each technique. Each technique explained includes a set of steps you can quickly turn into action. I also like the fact that the author uses short stories to illustrate the ideas, as well as concrete examples to make the techniques hit home.

Linear and Intuitive Techniques
The book organizes techniques for ideas into two main buckets:

  • Linear - manipulate information in ways to generate new ideas.
  • Intuitive - find ideas by using your intuition and imagination.

What To Use Them For
The author suggests you can use the techniques for the following:

  • Generate ideas at will.
  • Find new ways to make money.
  • Create new business opportunities .
  • Manipulate and modify ideas until you come up with the most innovative and powerful ideas possible.
  • Create new products, services, and processes.
  • Improve old products, services, and processes.
  • Develop solutions to complex business problems.
  • Revitalize Markets.
  • See Problems as Opportunities.
  • Become More Productive.
  • Be the "idea person" in your organization.
  • Know where to look for the "breakthrough idea."
  • Become indispensable to your organization

Before you start with the parts of the book, there’s an initiation section. Initiation sets the stage for the rest of the book:

  • How to overcome fears, doubt and uncertainties about creativity.
  • How to start acting like an “idea person”, by giving you exercises to help you start believing and acting as if you are creative.
  • How to define problems so the final statement has the feel of a well-hit golf ball.
  • How to become an active thinking and organize information into new patterns to give rise to new ideas.

The book is organized into four main parts:

  • Part One: Linear Think Toys
  • Part Two: Intuitive Thinker Toys
  • Part Three: The Spirit of Koinonia -
  • Part Four: ENDTOYS – This part includes techniques for evaluating ideas, and a chapter on beliefs and perceptions.

The book has 39 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Original Spin
  • Chapter 2: Mind Pumping
  • Chapter 3: Challenges
  • Chapter 4: Thinkertoys
  • Chapter 5: False Faces (reversal)
  • Chapter 6: Slice and Dice (attribute listing)
  • Chapter 7: Cherry Split (fractionation)
  • Chapter 8: Think Bubbles (mind mapping)
  • Chapter 9: SCAMPER (questions)
  • Chapter 10: Tug-of-War (force-field analysis)
  • Chapter 11: Idea Box (morphological analysis)
  • Chapter 12: Idea Grid (FCB Grid)
  • Chapter 13: Lotus Blossom (diagramming)
  • Chapter 14: Phoenix (questions)
  • Chapter 15: The Great Trnanspacific Airline and Storm Door Company (matrix)
  • Chapter 16: Future Fruit
  • Chapter 17: Brutethink (random stimulation)
  • Chapter 18: Hall of Fame (forced connection)
  • Chapter 19: Circle of Opportunity (forced connection)
  • Chapter 20: Ideatoons (pattern language)
  • Chapter 21: Clever Trevor (talk to a stranger)
  • Chapter 22: Chilling Out (relaxation)
  • Chapter 23: Blue Roses (intuition)
  • Chapter 24: The Three B’s (incubation)
  • Chapter 25: Rattlesnakes and Roses (analogies)
  • Chapter 26: Stone Soup (fantasy questions)
  • Chapter 27: True and False (janusian thinking)
  • Chapter 28: Dreamscape (dreams)
  • Chapter 29: Da Vinci’s Technique (drawing)
  • Chapter 30: Dali’s Technique (hypnogrogic imagery)
  • Chapter 31: Not Kansas (imagery)
  • Chapter 32: The Shadow (psychosynthesis)
  • Chapter 33: The Book of the Dead (hieroglyphics)
  • Chapter 34: Warming Up
  • Chapter 35: Brainstorming
  • Chapter 36: Orthodox Brainstorming
  • Chapter 37: Raw Creativity
  • Chapter 38: Murder Board
  • Chapter 39: You Are Not a Field of Grass

Friday, May 18, 2007

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats, by Edward De Bono, presents a framework for organizing and improving thinking.

Switch Hats to Switch Your Thinking
By using a metaphor, the hat, it's easy to switch modes of thinking by switching hats. The main idea is to turn destructive arguments into constructive thinking. The approach is to have people wear a certain hat depending on what type of thinking is needed for the moment.

Six Hats
The six hats are:

  • White Hat - the facts and figures
  • Red Hat - the emotional view
  • Black Hat - the "devil's advocate"
  • Yellow Hat - the positive side
  • Green Hat - the creative side
  • Blue Hat - the organizing view

Key Themes
Key themes throughout the book are:

  • Thinking your way forward over judging your way forward.
  • Parallel thinking over argument, adversarial, and confrontational.
  • Setting direction for thinking over describing what perspective your thinking was.

Key Take Aways

  • By switching hats, you can switch points of view.
  • It's easier to ask somebody to wear another hat, than tell them to change their thinking
  • You can reduce time in meetings spent arguing towards constructive dialogue
  • You can better balance thinking, particuarly in a group (for example, creatitivity with negativity or emotional perspective with facts, particuarly)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hello World!

Have you ever read a book that's changed your life? I have. Lots of them. This is my blog to share the books I read and the lessons I learn.