Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko [Actionable Summary]

This is a comprehensive book summary of the book Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) by Michael Michalko. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access and a downloadable/printable version of the summary.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

Written by the world’s most highly acclaimed creative expert, Michael Michalko – that’s right, he’s a creative grandmaster. Thinkertoys is an unusual book. It’s like an encyclopedia encapsulating thinking techniques, allowing you to come up with genius ideas. Plus, also, an elixir that will give your creativity a living pulse. It’s thought-provoking. Fun. Exciting. Extremely practical. And it will arm your brain with a wide variety of tools – called Thinkertoys – to battle the problems trying to sabotage your progress. With each new page and creative technique introduced, new original ideas will come to your mind almost involuntarily.

The Core Idea:

Kill your unoriginality. That’s the core idea. According to Michalko. Everyone has creative potential. The reason we’re stuck in a swamp of uncreativeness is how we perceive ourselves. We are negative. We think that we lack talent. We label ourselves as ordinary. All of these beliefs create a negative force field that prevents us from coming up with fresh solutions to our daily problems. Thinkertoys will cast a spell and break the self-imposed walls around your head keeping you stuck. If you take the time to practice the introduced exercises. You will undoubtedly enhance your creative thinking and start inventing innovative solutions to improve your personal and business life.

Reason To Read:

Have you ever been stuck with a problem that you feel you cannot solve? Ever brainstormed to come up with new ideas to solve a problem, but you only got further down the aisle of unoriginality? You don’t feel like a right-brained person? Then, well, You absolutely need this manuscript. Thinkertoys acts like an injection of creativity. Helping you focus on “what can be” instead of “what is not.”


  • Reawaken your creativity by influencing what happens in your head.
  • You can generate a lot of amazing new ideas by reversing already working great ideas.
  • The ability to relate a problem in one field to seemingly different problems in unrelated fields is a superpower that one can master.

7 Key Lessons from Thinkertoys:

Lesson #1: Control What’s Going On In Your Head

It’s impossible to come up with innovative ideas. To be creative. If you don’t think that you have what it takes. If you have a negative attitude.

Commonly, we adopt this limiting view because we are thought – as the author writes – “to be ‘me’, instead of ‘I’.

The “me” part here represents an object. A lifeless object that others act upon. For instance, when you adopt the view about how others describe you – if they say that, “you are uncreative, you are ordinary, you are average”. If you don’t do something about it. You stay stuck in this lake of thoughts. You start to believe that, indeed, “I am an ordinary person.”

Conversely, by focusing on your “I”. You become an active subject. You haven’t been creative in the past. But that’s not determinative of your future existence. You have the capacity to change. And change happens when you realize something important about your thinking abilities: That you have full control over what’s going on in your head.

The book starts with this distinction between creative and uncreative personalities for a good reason.

While surely hard, you have the power to choose to be creative.

Your behavior in relation to your attitude affects your attitude.

People who believe are creative, actually are creative. Oppositely, people who are convinced that they can’t come up with original ideas are often the ones that are looking for reasons why things won’t work and why things can’t be done.

As the author writes, “They cannot deal with life as free and happy people; they are narrowed and enslaved by their attitude.”

By changing your perspective. By forcefully bending your behavior towards positivity and creativity. You will start to see things that you were unable to see before. That is, you will start to see what is possible. Focus on figuring out what can be done instead of what can’t happen.

“We decide. We choose. In the end, our own creativity is decided by what we choose to do or what we refuse to do. And as we decide and choose, so are our destinies formed.” Michael Michalko

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