Geniuses may have more gray matter than the rest of us.

However, what really makes geniuses different from the average person is not so much what they think, but the way they think. By following the thinking strategies of the greatest minds, we too could have moments of creative inspiration.

In his article on how geniuses think, Michael Michalko outlines several specific strategies that great minds follow. These strategies have been used by creative geniuses in all fields from science to art to industry.

Here are brief outlines of 5 of these strategies.


In general, the approach of geniuses towards problems tends to be a little different from the rest of us. Most of us tend to stop thinking once we have a reasonable idea, and abandon any ideas that seem too difficult or impractical.

However, geniuses do things differently. They don’t stop at an initial idea but keep searching for different ways of arriving at a solution. Also, they don’t edit their initial ideas and discard them as impractical or too difficult.


Great thinkers tend to focus on visual and spatial abilities. Michalko points out that ‘Galileo revolutionized science by making his thoughts visible with diagrams, maps, and drawings while his contemporaries used conventional mathematical and verbal approaches.’

There are many ways to approach this way of problem-solving. We might create a mind-map or a mood board to get our thoughts on paper in a visual way.


Geniuses make a lot of things, but they don’t always make a lot of great things. They fail a lot. The classic example is Thomas Edison who failed many times at inventing the light bulb before his eventual world-changing success.

Sometimes our fear of getting something wrong can inhibit our creativity, so give yourself permission to do something badly. Make a bad picture, write a bad draft or a rubbish business plan, and then another and another. The more you produce, the more likely you are to produce something great.


Geniuses are able to see the connection in apparently unconnected ideas or subjects. Many creativity tests use this idea by giving people an object, such as a brick, and asking them to come up with as many ways as possible to use it.

The first few ideas are usually pretty conventional, but the more we are forced to think of new ideas the more creative our solutions become. This can be a great way of practicing creative thinking.


According to Michalko, Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius. He believed that the individual who had the capacity to see similarities between two separate areas of existence and link them together was a person of special gifts.

Again, we can use this to help our own creative endeavors by looking for the connections between disparate ideas or objects when we are trying to produce something new. Michalko uses the example of Edison, who invented the phonograph after developing an analogy between a toy funnel and the motions of a paper man and sound vibrations.

These five strategies might not turn us into a da Vinci or Leonardo overnight. However, these strategies provide proven ways to stretch our thinking. Using them gives us a better shot at coming up with something that is truly innovative and original.

Do you have any strategies that help you come up with great ideas? Please share them with us in the comments section.



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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. BruceM

    What works for me is playing the violin. True. It frees up my multi-level thought processes (often too many) thus while playing and reading sheet music my mind clears for the period that I play. I only practice for short periods (no more than forty-five minutes) as these short periods also help me with my use of nueroplasticity that trains the right hand hemisphere of my brain and then I lay down to rest for twenty or thirty minutes after each section. Sometime I can complete five sections in a six hour time-slot. By the basic movements of playing and having to engage all of my body (yes I seem to sway gently while playing, this enable a freer mind and relaxation; no I never sit to play) it produces a better mind-set so to speak and for me a more relaxed time to think on a given topic (or three) with more clarity. If you can bare with me I will try to paint a picture in words of what happens if i do not use the violin.
    If I were to opine how a normal brain works as opposed to how mine seems to “jam up”. A normal thought process is like holding a small kitchen funnel of four inches in diameter at its largest opening and tapering off to a half inch bottom of the funnel (both ends open of course; normal atmospheric conditions and no vacuum). Now if one were to pick up only one strand of spaghetti (uncooked, straight and firm [brittle]) at a time and drop it through the large opening at the top (each strand representing one thought) then it passes freely the opening at the bottom of the funnel with out blockage or any other restriction. This to me is a normal brain process (as I see it from my perspective). However for me my normal thoughts are like taking a whole handful of spaghetti (depending on diameter that maybe as many as one hundred strands) that are wet and well cooked! My brain clogs just as the funnel does. If I try to reason my thoughts on any topic with two sons (twenty seven and thirty one years respectively) they close me down by saying “Too much information Dad”! Even my close friend and practicing clinical psychiatrist of thirty years will interject and informs me that I either need a mathematician or physicist to talk or converse with on many topics of my normal days thoughts. HOWEVER the greatest way for me to totally clear my thoughts is by free falling from forteen thousand feet. Yes you did read correctly. This is the best way to engage my whole brain and mind with “one” thought process. Reality is you are now testing gravity with your own body-weight and mass. Yes you have to switch on to fly (fall) stable and check your altimeter and ground body relative, height and then deploy your canopy safely for a wonderful journey back to earth. This gives me a “hang-over” effect of clear thoughts for up to a week after a few jumps in one day. Perfect!!! Well you did ask to share my thoughts… Thank you, take care and be safe. 🙂

  2. BruceM

    “Geniuses may have more gray matter than the rest of us”.

    This statement is incorrect, with emphasis on the word “may”. Deep thinkers do not have any more “gray matter” than any other persons. What is a more correct way to make this statement better for readers and all to understand (without seeing this obvious mistake) and comprehend is that these persons are able to use/access a greater percentage of their brains thinking, deducing, calculating capacity more effectively and more efficiently just as RAM (random access memory) on a computer does. Why did I see this? Easy short answer is everyone, yes everyone can train their mind/brains ability to a greater level of efficiency. DO NOT pigion-hole yourself short with even thinking that you cannot. Be positive about your abilities. Be patient and understanding of yourselves and your mind’s worth. Your thoughts however dull they may appear to be for some are important to me if no-one else. Please do not be harsh on yourselves if you think you have made a mistake. Because trying is a success in and of itself, and a step in a direction. Any direction is a more positive choice than no direction at all. Do not destroy a youthful creative intellectual imagination when it is in its infancy!!! These thoughts are the seeds that grow the trees of knowledge that are so important to the future of all mankind. As a race we are still in our infancy (see above) and we have a long way to go. Or can we fold and manipulate time and fast track forward? Food for thought.

    Thank you for your time. Best regards to all who read this statement.

  3. Hunter E

    I simply don’t stop,

    Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be normal. I won’t fall asleep until I realize what everything means to me. It hard to focuse in my classes. When I see the person right next to me struggle, I know exactly how they feel. Why the coaches and teachers ever stop trying. Why am I the only one. Am I dumb or crazy. Those are my only options. If space is endless what could there be ………………..

    There are always people watching !!!!! 😛😛😛😛

  4. alexis garcia

    Good evening all, I do hope that all of you continue to share your thoughts 💭… I could not stop reading and realizing that many time I have felt like you were describing in your comments. I do not know what to concider myself as far as level of intellect, so I won’t even begin to try and explain. But what can say is that many times I have asked myself why do I need to go to someone else’s level of thinking and rationalizing just because this person can not understand mine?

  5. Philip Rose

    I feel like I am in some way a genius. Only due to the fact that in school I don’t do things the way they are taught, I do things my own way, and I still get the same result. We were doing a math paper and it was plotting the points, instead of the paper being straight up and down like everyone else. My paper was sideways, but still had the same picture drawn on it after. It’s not that I wanted to do it that way, I just did it. Most of the time I do things simply because I feel like the way everyone else does them is just too “simple” and it gets boring. I feel like I stick out like a needle in that class and it’s not because of being smart I just feel different from everyone else.

  6. Dr. Monsy Thomas Mathai

    I am totally deaf from childhood, yet I got along. I never even heard my name during roll call, so as far as classes were concerned, they just buzzed past me. It didn’t bother me. Teachers thought I was dumb, which I wasn’t. One teacher even called me a duffer. A thousand people found humour in my deafness. Yet I rolled on and ended my life as a professor in ophthalmology in a medical college. I wasn’t the best. What made me survive and win. Maybe grit. Maybe a little hard work. Maybe good luck. Maybe self belief. Maybe the realisation that most people around me were dumb or just would not use the thinking part of their brain, they liked digested thoughts only. But finally I realised the key to my success was I was self taught with no teachers to guide me I learned to find a way around. That’s the key. Finding a way around.

  7. Sam

    Edison was not a genius he stole ideas and had his inventions innovated by geniuses such as nikola tesla.

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