It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut, to base decisions on a set of beliefs and to never challenge their validity. Thinkertoys: a handbook of creative-thinking techniques by Michael Michalko is a compilation of exercises to help you clarify your problem, challenge your assumptions and brainstorm possible solutions. Here are a couple of examples. You can find many more exercises on Michael Michalko’s website.
Tick-Tock (to help overcomes fears, doubts, uncertainties)
1. Zero in on and write down those negative thoughts that are preventing you from realizing your goal. Write them under “Tick.”
2. Sit quietly and examine the negatives. Learn how you are irrationally twisting things and blowing them out of proportion.
3. Substitute an objective, positive thought for each subjective, negative one. Write these under “Tock.”
1. When you are looking for a fresh approach to a challenge, bring in a random word. The word you bring in must be truly random and not selected for any relevance to the stated challenge. Random words will spark a fresh association of ideas in your mind. The best words are simple and familiar, words you know well enough that it is easy to visualize the objects they represent (e.g. soap, soup, sand).
2. Think of a variety of things that are associated with your chosen word. What are its characteristics? What can you do with it?
3. Force connections. Make a forced connection between your random word and the challenge you are working on. Think about the similarities, connections and associations.
4. List your ideas. Otherwise you won’t remember them.
Alternative: Use a picture instead of a word. Examine the picture and look for ideas that could be applied to the challenge.