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I am very excited about this wonderful podcast interview with Michael Michalko. Michael is one of the world’s foremost experts on creative thinking.

As an officer in the United States 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 international team applied those methods to various NATO military, political, and social problems and in doing so it produced a variety of breakthrough ideas and creative solutions to new and old problems. After leaving the military, Michael facilitated CIA think tanks using his creative thinking techniques. Michael later applied these creative-thinking techniques to problems in the corporate world with outstanding successes. Michael has provided keynote speeches, workshops, and seminars on fostering creative thinking for clients who range from Fortune 500 corporations, such as DuPont, Kellogg’s, General Electric, Kodak, Microsoft, Exxon, General Motors, Ford, USA, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Gillette, and Hallmark, to associations and governmental agencies. In addition to his work in the United States, Michael has worked with clients in countries around the world.


He consults with special operations forces to enhance their creativity and approach to threats that are evolving continuously. Whether you are an IT Security leader or an Entrepreneur you will really enjoy his approach to using imagination and creativity to help you navigate your jobs and your life.

Michael Michalko

I particularly like when I have a interview that I can equally have my children listen to as my staff. This is when I know I am onto a message that is special. We discuss concepts from both of his books Thinkertoys and Creative Thinkering. Michael has tons of stories he shares in the interview about:

  • Using Socrates approach to running a brainstorm meeting
  • Einstein
  • Edison
  • Michelangelo
  • Imagination versus creative thinking
  • The Universe and the role of discontinuity
  • The importance of using a journal
  • Producing copious ideas
  • Conceptual Blending
  • What is the difference between pattern recognition and creativity
  • How to help your kids avoid the pitfalls of traditional education and creativity

Show Notes

  • What is Brainstorming – Applied Imagination by Alex Osborne  pioneered brainstorming in this book. [02:55]
  • It’s the result that counts, learning something you didn’t know before or when can you explain something you haven’t before [05:15]
  • What is the Natural way to think [06:13]
  • Mission appears to be to exclude possibilities instead of to include possibilities [06:38]
  • Debunking the myth that extra creative people are superhuman {07:55]
  • There were no separate domains in knowledge, it was ALL knowledge [08:45]
  • How easy is creative thinking [12:35]
  • Conceptual Blending – as it relates to taking two separate topics and taking them into one idea. Why are we sucked into the habit of expanding solution sets.[14:40]
  • How we are born to think [15:50]
  • Creative thinkers have retained the ability to think creatively [16:23]
  • Attitudes and beliefs – how are they discussed in the Book  – do we use our belief? [18:35 ]–Creative Thinkering – Michael Michalko 
  • Can-do Spirit – After WW2 – people stopped interpreting their experience. How you interpret the experience defines the meaning [19:25]
  • When Lincoln was asked where he gets incredible strength from – he said adversity.  By overcoming all the adversity you become the person you will become [21:50]
  • A lot of people have forgotten how to interpret the experiences they have [22:30]
  • An individual that is trying to accomplish something meaningful in their business, if they are experiencing pressure…it is their interpretation that is the resistance. They are applying an earlier experience they had. [23:40]
  • When you make it easy for people they lose the incentive to make their own lives [24:58]
  • Are we addicted to comfort? Are we approaching solutions from positions of comfort. [25:20]
  • Most activity or innovation comes from the risk taker, the person that is energised looking for markets where there were none before. [31:00]
  • Is there a way/specific things that someone can do to structure their day – to start working on ideas? [32:00] Finding the time
  • One way to avoid going through the motions – is to say I don’t have the time [35:09]
  • How do you get ideas unless you are solitarily thinking? [36:36]
  • Rules when discussing problems [36:59]
  • We live in an age where we believe everything is continuous logical, linear& analytical. But things are not like that in the universe – in the universe things are a-casual, made up by random events. [38:05]
  • What is the difference between pattern recognition vs problem-solving [40:50]
  • When you provoke different thinking patterns, it gives you a different way to focus on your information and a different way to interpret what you are focusing on.  There is no way to WILL that. [45:06]
  • You can’t WILL a creative idea – you have to create a brand new association. [47:12]
  • Thinkertoys – Michael Michalko is about how to create new thinking patterns – you need the technique. [47:40]
  • Physical exercise for your brain – the more harvesting of the proliferation of these ideas [48:30]
  • If you have too many ideas – what is the best way to evaluate them? It’s more important to capture them [49:55]
  • Revisiting ideas – can bring about solutions in future projects.[50:40]
  • When you capture ideas they will be combining and recombining in billions of different ways – and a solution will pop up – eureka moment – after you stuffed your unconscious mind with all these thoughts over time [53:10]
  • Process of incubation – you need something.  Something cannot come from nothing. [56:00]

I hope you enjoy the podcast.

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About Bill Murphy 

Bill Murphy is a world-renowned IT Security Expert dedicated to your success as an IT business leader. 

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