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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