Creative Thinking, by Michael Michalko

[This article is an excerpt from Creative Thinkering, a book that I've been reading lately. I asked the author if I could include it on my blog as part of my guest author series. He agreed. I hope you enjoy reading his thoughts on intention boards.]
Guest Author: Michael Michalko, bestselling author of Thinkertoys

Experimental social psychologists have conducted numerous experiments that demonstrate how behavior and performance can be “primed” by showing participants certain objects and pictures. In one study, participants who were primed with pictures associated with business — such as briefcases, pens, pictures of people dressed in business clothes, commuter trains, and so on — became more competitive. The social psychologist Michael Slepian and colleagues at Tufts University noticed during a study on “bright ideas” that participants became more insightful and creative when they were primed with an exposed lightbulb. In short, they found that even exposure to an illuminating lightbulb primes creativity.

One way to prime yourself for creativity is to generate an awareness of what you want to be or accomplish. You can do this by creating an “intention board.” An intention board is a large poster board on which you paste images, sayings, articles, poems, and other items that you’ve collected from magazines and other sources. It’s simple. The idea is to surround yourself with images of your intention (what you want to create or who you want to become) and, in the process, to encourage your awareness and passion to grow. Lay your intention board on a surface where you can work on it, and try out this thought experiment:
Ask yourself what it is you want to be or to create. Maybe one word will be the answer. Maybe images will appear in your head. Post the word or image in the middle of your intention board.
Suppose you want to create a new business. Post the words “New Business” or a picture that represents a new business in the center of the board. Now look through magazines and other sources and pull out pictures, poems, articles, or headlines that relate to entrepreneurs and new business ventures. Have fun with it. Make a big pile of images, words, and phrases. Go through the pile and put favorites on the board. If you add new ones, eliminate those that no longer feel right. This is where intuition comes in. As you place the items on the board, you’ll get a sense how they should be laid out. For instance, you might want to assign a theme to each corner of the board, such as “What I have,” “What I will have,” “What I need,” and “How to get what I need.”

Hang the board on a wall and keep adding new pieces that you feel have more relevance and removing those that no longer work. Study and work on it every day. You’ll discover that the board will add clarity to your desires, and feeling to your visions, which in turn will generate an awareness of the things in your environment that can help you realize your vision.
My brother-in-law desired to be an artist. His intention board was a collage of pictures of paintings and artists, poetry about art, and articles about artists and their work. Over time, he began to imagine conversing with his various prints of paintings. One print that particularly enthralled him was Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. He would focus on the painting and engage in an imaginary two-way conversation. The more he engaged with the painting, the more alive it seemed to become. He would ask the painting questions, such as, What inspired the artist to paint the picture? What was his knowledge of the world? What were his contemporaries’ views of the painting? How was the artist able to communicate over the centuries? What is the artist communicating? He would ask how the colors worked together, and ask questions about lines, shapes, and styles.

My brother-in-law, once a disgruntled government employee, is now a successful artist who has had several showings of his work, at which he sold pieces. He created an environment with his intention board that influenced his insight into art and his role in the world. The board primed his subconscious mind, which influenced his psychology.

Imagine a person who is aware of all the colors “except one particular shade of blue. Let all the different shades of blue, other than that one, be placed before him, arranged in order from the deepest to the lightest shade of blue. He most probably will perceive a blank, where that one shade is missing,” and will realize that the distance is greater between the contiguous colors than between any others. He will then imagine what this particular shade should look like, though he has never seen it. This would not be possible had he not seen all the different shades of blue.

Similarly, as your board evolves and becomes more and more sophisticated, you will perceive blanks where something is missing. You will then begin to imagine ways to fill in the blanks in order to realize your vision.

Your brain becomes an extraordinary pattern-recognition tool when you focus your intention. In addition to identifying what’s missing, you will begin to think of alternatives that can substitute for what is “missing” from your intention board. You will find yourself seeing more than what is there.

MICHAEL MICHALKO is the author of Creative Thinkering, Thinkertoys, Cracking Creativity, and ThinkPak. While an army officer, he organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics to find the best inventive thinking method. He has expanded and taught these techniques to numerous Fortune 500 companies and organizations. He lives in Rochester, New York. Visit him online at

Excerpted from the book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work ©2011 by Michael Michalko. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

1 comment:

Prisma Comm said...

Thanks for this important message, I believe we are the result of our thoughts, so it is very important to learn to be creative thinking to achieve our goals!

Maria Reyes