A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: A book review by Bob Morris

 A Kick in the Seat of the Pants:
Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge & Warrior to Be More Creative
Roger von Oech
Harper Paperbacks (1988)

This book should be read in combination with A Whack on the Side of the Head…preferably after you have read that book. At least that’s my suggestion. In Kick, first published in 1986, von Oech introduces four stereotypes: The ExplorerThe ArtistThe Judge, and The Warrior.

Von Oech devotes a separate chapter to each. Also, he assigns to each quite different values, priorities, mindsets, predispositions, and parameters relative to creative thinking. This is a brilliant conceit. In varying proportions, each of us is (simultaneously) an Explorer, an Artist, a Judge, and a Warrior. Each plays an important role in the creative process. Von Oech explains how and why.

As in A Whack on the Side of the Head, he provides various exercises in combination with a rigorous analysis of each of the four stereotypes. As is true of Whack, Kick will be immensely valuable to executives in any organization which needs a culture within which to generate and then nourish fresh ideas and new perspectives. The same is true of all self-employed people (especially independent consultants) whose customers or clients expect them to address the same need. Finally, I think that school, college, and university classroom teachers can devise all manner of appropriate applications of von Oech’s ideas.

I strongly recommend both Whack and Kick. Also von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack and the more recently published Expect the Unexpected (or You Won’t Find It): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus. Read and then re-read all three. Absorb and digest the material. Let the ideas percolate for a while. (The material in all three is remarkably cohesive…and intellectually combustible.) Then try this experiment the next time you and others in your organization get together to brainstorm. Whoever chairs the discussion is designated the Judge. Depending on the size of the group, designate one or two others to be (respectively) the Explorer, the Artist, and the Warrior. Require everyone to think and comment ONLY within the strict limits of each assigned role. After about 15-20 minutes of brainstorming, re-assign all roles. Same requirement: each must think and comment only within the strict limits of her or his role. No exceptions.(Once you read Kick, you’ll know exactly what I am suggesting…also why.) I’ll bet you a beverage of your choice that the results will surprise and delight everyone involved. Also, and more to the point, it will prove to be the most productive brainstorm session that anyone in the group had as yet participated in. Just think (creatively, of course) how much more will be accomplished at the next session!

In addition to von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head, there are other excellent books also worthy of your consideration. They include those written by Edward De Bono, Guy Claxton, Michael Michalko, and Joey Reiman.

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Roger von Oech is the founder and president of Creative Think, a California-based consulting firm that specializes in stimulating creativity and innovation. He has given seminars and presentations to corporations worldwide, including Coca-Cola, GE, Disney, Intel, MTV, Microsoft, NASA, Apple, Citigroup, and the United States Olympic Committee. He is the author of two previous creative-thinking books, A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, as well as the popular Creative Whack Pack card deck. He lives with his wife and children in Atherton, California.

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