"Thinkpak, Revised," from Michael Michalko

Pros: A playful, useful toy to help you loosen up and create; portable and quick; self-contained
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review book courtesy of 10 Speed Press.

Michael Michalko’s “Thinkpak” cards are a handy little adjunct to his book, Thinkertoys. While the book provides you with in-depth instructions and sample anecdotes, however, the cards act as a quick, portable, self-contained brain-stimulator.

The deck includes an introductory card, a card of instructions, an explanatory booklet, 45 “idea stimulator” cards, and 9 evaluation technique cards. The introductory card and the booklet delve into something originally explored in “Thinkertoys”–a method called SCAMPER:

Substitute 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.

The idea stimulator cards are similarly divided into these nine types of questions–with the backs of the cards color-coded by category–so that you can pick a card at random, pick a card from each category, or pick a card from a specific category. The guidelines on card number two are pretty simple: basically write down your challenge or problem, pick a card based one one of two strategies, and use its prompt to free-write about your problem. When done, use one of the evaluation cards to help you figure out which ideas are your best. The two strategies presented are the random strategy (shuffle the idea stimulator cards, draw one at random, and keep drawing until you find one you can apply to your problem), and the systematic strategy (go through the cards in order, using each one that you can apply to your problem).

The book includes a couple of games for group brainstorming, as well as examples of the SCAMPER ideals in general use and the specific prompts from the cards in use.

 

I believe the deck is best used after reading the book. The prompts on the cards are quick, simple keys to help you brainstorm, and I think these will work best once you’ve gotten a bit of a handle on how to brainstorm in general. Also, there are many in-depth exercises in the book that of course wouldn’t fit onto cards.

The cards, however, have some wonderful applications apart from the book. They’re portable and self-contained, making them easy to take along in your luggage, briefcase or purse. They’re easy to distribute among the members of a class or team. They lend themselves well to randomness, which can help to spark ideas when you truly have no idea where to start. They’re also fun to play with, which can help to loosen people up and get them into a more playful and creative mood.

In short, if you believe Thinkertoys sounds useful or interesting, you’ll probably want to make sure you get your hands on the Thinkpak as well.

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