Amazing book alert!
A few days ago a friend of mine told me about this experiment where 6 year old children were asked to think about all the possible and impossible ways to use a stapler. They came up with 30 ideas (including using a stapler to pin hair). When 10 year old children where asked to do the same, they came up with only two ideas, one of which was stapling paper. Pretty sad, don’t you think?
Why does creativity shrink? What is the difference between creative and non-creative minds? How do people come up with genius ideas? Is there a pattern, a technique? I browsed the Internet determined to find the best book to answer all these questions and many more, and I believe I found it. It’s called Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (Michael Michalko) and it offers a detailed description of an impressive number of creative techniques (duh, the title says it all). The book is filled with interesting examples and stories aimed at simplifying the understanding of certain notions. The excerpt bellow illustrates how people get stuck in assumptions and why it is important to challenge them (a technique which is highly effective in solving problems and initiating unique ideas).
“Imagine a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all the monkeys with ice-cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the monkeys are sprayed with ice-cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, turn off the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and will want to climb the stairs. To his surprise, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.
Again, replace a third monkey with a new one. The new one goes to the stairs and is attacked. Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they were participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing the forth and the fifth monkeys with new ones, all the monkeys that have been sprayed with ice-cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been around here.
Don’t be a monkey. Challenge all assumptions.”