A Whack on the Side of the Head: A book review by Bob Morris

A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative

Roger von Oech
Business Plus, 25th Anniversary Edition  (2008)

Note: When preparing for some interviews, I re-read several books on the creative process and remain convinced that all are still among the best. That is certainly true of this classic

This book should be read in combination with A Kick in the Seat of the Pants…and preferably read first. Just a suggestion. Von Oech demonstrates in his thinking and in his writing the same principles he advocates so eloquently. In Whack, first published in 1983, he identifies ten “locks” that limit (if not preclude or eli9minate) creative thinking:

• The Right Answer
• That’s Not Logical
• Follow the Rules
• Be Practical
• Play Is Frivolous
• That’s Not My Area
• Avoid Ambiguity
• Don’t Be Foolish
• To Err Is Wrong
• I’m Not Creative

How does each limit (if not preclude) creative thinking? How can each be “unlocked”? To what extent are these barriers interdependent? Von Oech devotes a separate chapter to each of the ten, answering these and other questions while providing various exercises in support of his explanations.

Whack will be immensely valuable to executives in any organization that 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. When you listen to Richard Feyman’s lectures on physics (now available on CDs video), you suspect that he has read all of von Oech’s books. He probably didn’t. Nonetheless, he and von Oech are kindred spirits.

In addition to von Oech’s A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, 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. As indicated, he is the author of 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. His most recent book is Expect the Unexpected (Or You Won’t Find It!): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus. Roger  lives with his wife and children in Atherton, California.

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