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Think Better - Book Review

1 September 2022
Dr. Moria Levy

The book "Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking" was written by Tim Hurson in 2008, and its relevance persists to this day, surpassing many other books I have read. Rudolph D'souza, an award-winning knowledge management leader from India, highly recommended it to me, and for a good reason.


This book presents a framework for applying the Design Thinking methodology. The tools it provides are applicable to this significant methodology, which aims to generate innovative solutions for complex problems and various aspects of life. The title of the book, "Think Better," accurately reflects its emphasis on productive thinking, going beyond design thinking alone.

The book covers the following topics:
  1. Principles of improved thinking

  2. Understanding the given situation

  3. Defining success

  4. Asking good questions

  5. Offering ideas and answers

  6. Distilling and refining the solution

  7. Allocating resources

  8. Summary


I highly recommend reading this book and implementing the concepts discussed within. Furthermore, I encourage sharing it with a good friend.

Principles of improved thinking

Creative thinking is inherent to our nature as thinking beings; however, we often actively avoid deep thought and instead engage in distractions that divert our attention from our challenges. This reactive behavior keeps us bound to pre-established patterns, hindering our ability to break free and embrace new thoughts.


Tim Hurson distinguishes between two types of thinking: productive thinking and reproductive thinking. The constructive review focuses on developing new solutions and increasing efficiency, while reproductive thinking aims to optimize existing work through continuous improvement (Kaizen).


Productive thinking consists of two essential components:


Critical thinking: According to Hurson, giving equal importance to these components without overshadowing one another is crucial.


Creative thinking possesses the following characteristics:

  •  Creating something entirely new that didn't exist before.

  • Approaching ideas without judgment.

  • Expanding possibilities, leading to further success as you become more adept at it.


When should you employ enhanced thinking? It proves most effective in low-cost error and risk situations. It is precious in environments characterized by constant change, with high demand for new and innovative solutions.


During productive thinking, grant yourself the freedom to dwell longer on the question and its underlying meaning. This openness allows for the exploration of additional solution options. Brainstorming sessions often yield the best results during the third round, where ideas flourish. To reach this point, revisit the question and ask, "How else can the problem be solved?"


Productive thinking involves a combination of divergence and convergence processes. In the initial stage, generate extensive lists of ideas. Then, proceed to refine and narrow down your options through strategic decision-making.


The stages of productive thinking align with the locations of design thinking, as observed in various methodologies that employ this approach.


Understanding the given situation

A series of five questions can provide us with a comprehensive understanding of an issue:


  1. What interferes, requires correction, or needs improvement? Additionally, what attracts us to languages? According to Hurson, creating an extensive list of obstacles is beneficial without justification or analysis. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible through open and accessible thinking.

  2. How does the issue impact people and the environment? Why is it important? Identify the most significant reasons why you care about the subject. Consider the effects on individuals and the environment, emphasizing the reasons that hold the most important to you.

  3. What information do we already know about the issue, and what additional information is needed for a deeper understanding? Create two lists: one for what you know and another for what you wonder. Utilize branching thinking to generate a comprehensive list, then apply critical thinking to narrow it down to the most crucial information that should be collected and explored.

  4. Who is involved? Identify the stakeholders relevant to the obstacles hindering progress and potential changes related to the issue. This stage consists in shifting perspectives from a personal/internal viewpoint to an external one, considering the involvement of others. Make an extensive list of stakeholders and select the most important ones.

  5. What is the vision? Imagine the transition from the present to the future regarding the given issue. Utilize the following tools:

    1. Complete sentences that start with "It would be great if..."

    2. Express your wishes by saying, "I wish that..."

    3. Analyze the list of options that emerged and select one that meets three criteria:

    4. You influence it.

    5. It is essential to you.

    6. It stimulates your imagination and brings the vision closer to reality.


Remember, don't worry if some visions are left behind. They may still prove helpful in future contexts.


Defining success

Defining success is closely intertwined with our ability to envision the future and exercise foresight. This step consists of two sub-steps:

  1.  Envision the future: Visualize, in a positive, captivating, and compelling manner, what it would be like to live in the future defined in the previous step. It is crucial to vividly see the envisioned situation and perhaps even feel it deep within. Hurson refers to this as creating a "drawn future" that exerts a magnetic pull, urging us to move towards it. Effective communication, especially on an emotional level, is vital for sustaining this future vision.

  2. Establish success criteria: To define the requirements for success, we utilize a recommended tool called DRIVE, which represents the following initials:

    1. Do: What do we want the solution to accomplish? What needs to be achieved?

    2. Restrictions: What changes or aspects should be avoided? What precautions must be taken?

    3. Investment: What are we willing to invest to ensure its success? What are the limits of investment?

    4. Values: Which values are essential in guiding the process of achieving the goals?

    5. Essential outcomes: What are the indispensable elements of success that cannot be compromised? What are the measurable goals that must be achieved?


From the multitude of criteria, primarily guided by the last bar but not exclusively, we select the direction for the future that we will further develop in the subsequent stages of the process.


Asking good questions

Asking questions plays a vital role in the productive thinking process. This step aims to ensure that we define the right questions to be answered rather than focusing solely on crafting excellent solutions for things that may be extraneous. The goal is to formulate inquiries that require exploration to reach the intended future. These questions act as catalysts for change. It is crucial to generate the appropriate questions that propel us forward rather than merely restating the vision in question form.


Tool: To ask practical questions, it is recommended to utilize the HMW (How Might We) tool or its Hebrew equivalent, "How could we possibly..." by adding endings that guide us towards the desired destination.


Tool: AIM (Advantages, Impediments, Maybes) is employed to create catalyst questions based on the future analysis we have defined. The study is conducted in three directions, represented by the initials:

  •  Advantages: Questions based on the benefits we aim to achieve.

  • Impediments: Questions based on the obstacles we wish to avoid.

  • Maybes: Questions based on additional potential advantages arising from implementing the solution beyond addressing the original need.


After generating a comprehensive list of questions, select the themes encompassing the most significant inquiries.


Tool: C5 is employed to choose the themes of the essential questions, utilizing the following abbreviations:

  • Cull: Formulate the questions as sentences (excluding "how could we possibly").

  • Cluster: Group similar questions together.

  • Combine: Merge supplementary questions into a single inquiry.

  • Clarify: Define the heading that represents each question cluster.

  • Choose: Select the most significant questions/themes based on their potential contribution to addressing the identified need (what itches) and fulfilling the future vision (according to the success criteria).

Offering ideas and answers

Generating good ideas can be challenging, but it is a crucial process in reaching intentional outcomes. Asking insightful questions is pivotal in guiding us in the right direction. This step involves two sub-phases:

  1.  Generating a multitude of ideas:

    Generating many, even if many may fail, is necessary to arrive at a few good ideas. Several tools can facilitate the generation of good ideas, including:

    1.  Brainstorming: Engaging in collaborative thinking and idea generation.

    2. Three rounds of ideas (The third): Valuable ideas often emerge during the third round.

    3. Creating an extensive list of ideas: Embrace the abundance of ideas without fear, as the more robust ideas will naturally overshadow the less successful ones initially generated.

    4. Expanding on the questions from the previous step by adding "more" to the equation, exploring possibilities through questions like "How could we possibly...?"

  2. Utilizing the UP (Underlying Principle) approach:

    When encountering a wild yet seemingly impractical idea, try to understand its underlying rationale. Then, explore whether you can derive another, more applicable solution from it.


Next, select the most successful ideas (3 to 6). When making your selection, consider the following criteria:

  • How well does each proposed solution address the identified need and align with the definition of future success?

  • Which ideas personally resonate with you, being helpful, engaging, and perhaps even different? What attracts you to promote them?


Tip: Don't feel remorseful about the solutions you didn't choose. You may surprise yourself and find alternative uses for them in the future.


Distilling and refining the solution

To ensure the accuracy and refinement of the applied solution, two sub-steps are proposed:

  1.  Evaluating the most promising solutions:

    Evaluate the solutions that were proposed during the idea generation stage. Compare them against the success criteria defined in the set of defining success. This can be accomplished using a matrix with columns representing the various criteria and rows representing the tested solutions.

  2. Refining the winning idea:

    Utilize the POWER tool, which stands for the following:

    1. Positives: Consider the benefits of the chosen solution.

    2. Objections: Identify the challenges and potential obstacles in implementing the solution.

    3. What else: Explore any additional elements or factors that need to be considered.

    4. Enhancements: Determine ways to strengthen the benefits of the solution further.

    5. Remedies: Devise strategies to overcome challenges and avoid pitfalls.


Applying the POWER tool, the original idea evolves into an upgraded version, which will be implemented. It is important to note two things:

  •  Be cautious not to overuse the POWER tool, as more is not always better.

  • Hurson refers to this stage as "creative criticism" or "Generative Judgment."


This is a valuable concept accompanied by effective branding, and I hope it proves highly productive (M.L.).

Allocating resources

The concluding phase of preparation for implementation focuses on planning. While it is acknowledged that we often deviate from the original plan in life, Hurson emphasizes the importance of planning. This is because it provides a better understanding of reality, revealing the lack of details and our inherent human biases.


With a better understanding, effective planning enables improved performance, even if it differs from the original plan. Like the previous steps, resource allocation requires a more sophisticated approach than what we are accustomed to. It involves:


  1. Detailing a comprehensive list of executable steps needed to implement the solution. Each task is assessed to determine if it should be further broken down into sub-tasks or combined with others.

  2. Identifying individuals who have the potential to contribute to the implementation and those who may hinder progress.

  3. Assigning a responsible person for each step of the process.

  4. Sequencing the steps in the optimal order.

  5. Identifying additional steps necessary to acquire all the required resources for task completion.

  6. Documenting checkpoints for each stage in the formulated work plan from the earlier sub-stages.


To facilitate this process, the EFFECT tool is recommended. It assists in identifying and allocating the necessary resources for each task while organizing and scheduling them appropriately. The aspects analyzed using the EFFECT tool are:


  • Energy: The level of energy required to carry out the task.

  • Funds: The financial resources needed for task completion.

  • Free Time: The amount of time the task implementer requires.

  • Expertise: The necessary skills and expertise of the task implementer.

  • Conditions: Prerequisites required for task execution.

  • Things: Equipment or additional physical resources necessary to fulfill the task.


Once the planning phase is complete, the original idea is refined and upgraded for implementation. Detailed action plans are developed to ensure a smooth transition.



  • Minimize training by leveraging local victories and showcasing tangible results.

  • Recruit individuals who are aligned with your goals and values.

  • Utilize a shared language and terminology that connects everyone involved.

  • Draw from practical experiences to inform decision-making and implementation strategies.


Enhanced thinking applies to all aspects of our lives, whether work, personal life, family, or community. It is a skill that can be developed, and the tools provided above serve as a starting point for its implementation. Engaging in improved thinking requires effort, willingness to take risks, and sometimes going against popular opinion. However, it could lead us to new and unexplored territories, creating equal opportunities for growth and progress.

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