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Expect the Unexpected (or You Won't Find It): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus Paperback


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Expect the Unexpected (or You Won't Find It): A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus + A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior to Be More Creative + A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (September 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576752275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576752272
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus was the first "creativity teacher," says Roger von Oech, whose bestselling book A Whack on the Side of the Head set the standard for out-of-the-box thinking. In Expect the Unexpected, Von Oech uses 30 of Heraclitus's pithy and paradoxical epigrams to approach problems in a fresh manner. He explains his premise: "Creative thinking involves imagining familiar things in a new light, digging below the surface to find previously undetected patterns, and finding connections among unrelated phenomena."

Von Oech uses the epigrams as creativity exercises--accompanied by mental puzzles, anecdotes, questions, and punchy footnotes--to demonstrate that Heraclitus's 2,500-year-old creative insights have aged well. With his whimsical wand, von Oech transforms the epigram "A Donkey prefers garbage to gold" into an exploration of values. He uses Heraclitus's observation that "A wonderful harmony is created when we join together the seemingly unconnected" to examine the use of metaphors in understanding problems. When Heraclitus observes that "Dogs bark at what they don't understand," Von Oech crafts a meditation about criticism. Executives, students, teachers, and parents will find an exciting and entertaining map for changing thought patterns, tolerating ambiguity, confounding expectations, and searching for hidden meanings. --Barbara Mackoff --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Von Oech, a creativity consultant, lecturer, and president of Creative Think, penned the best seller A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative (1986). Not as dry as the subtitle makes it sound, his latest book has certainly benefited from his recent studies of the creative process. Even though Von Oech does cite Heraclitus extensively (in Greek, no less), this is no classics text. Instead, Von Oech presents and offers his take on 30 of Heraclitus's epigrams, such as "On a circle, an end point can also be a beginning point" and "When there is no sun, we can see the evening stars." He then lists questions to help readers apply the insight gained from the epigrams to their own situation. Each of the 30 chapters is bite-sized but substantial. Recommended for all public libraries; academic libraries would probably also benefit.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

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Frankly, when I began to read this book, I really did not know what to expect.
Robert Morris
If you want a book that expands your creative mind and also shows you how to break out of old patterns of thinking in any situation, then this is the book for you.
Harold McFarland
This book is filled with provocative puzzles, exercises, stories & helpful tips.
Lee Say Keng

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have long been a fan of Roger von Oech's work on creativity (see A Whack on the Side of the Head and the Creative Whack Pack card deck). I found this book to be a pleasant and valuable addition to my resources for stimulating my thinking in new ways.
The book's core are 30 epigrams ("a terse, witty, and often paradoxical saying") of the 125 that have come down to us in the quotations of other authors from Heraclitus, as written 2500 years ago. Mr. von Oech has taken the traditional translation and updated it into more conceptual English in many cases, which makes the material more accessible. "All things happen according to the logos" (from Heraclitus by T. M. Robinson, University of Toronto Press, 1987) becomes "The cosmos speaks in patterns." Each epigram begins with an imaginative line drawing to give you an initial impression of the concept. Mr. von Oech goes on to provide some key subpoints in a brief essay, some examples of the concepts and subpoints in action, and occasionally gives you puzzles and brain teasers to play with (the answers are at the end of the book).
The longer the section, the better I liked it. So I left the book wishing it had been longer. That's my usual test of how helpful a book was to me. While many of these epigrams meant nothing to me on first reading them, Mr. von Oech's explanations soon made each an old and valuable friend.
Mr. von Oech suggests three ways to use the book. First, you can read it from start to finish as a creativity workbook. Second, you can take one epigram a day and make it the focus of a meditation for that day. You can repeat the list at the end of 30 days ("You can't step into the same river twice" so you should get new insights each time). Third, you can use the book as an oracle.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The fact that von Oech draws heavily upon the "ancient wisdom of Heraclitus" in this book correctly suggests what a creative mind such as von Oech's can accomplish when seeing direct and useful correlations between an ancient Greek philosopher (other than Plato and Aristotle) and intellectual challenges in the 21st century. Von Oech describes Heraclitus as "the world's first creative teacher." He recalls being "infected" (happily) with the Heraclitean "bug" while studying in Germany 30 years ago. Now von Oech has written a book in which he brilliantly and entertainingly examines concepts such as symbol, paradox, and ambiguity in relation to creative thought. He offers 30 "Creative Insights" of Heraclitus which include, for example, these five:
#2. "Expect the unexpected or you won't find it."
#4 "You can't step into the same river twice."
#12 "Many fail to grasp what's right in the palm of their hand."
#26 "Donkeys prefer garbage to gold."
#29 "Your character is your destiny."
Individually and even when clustered with the other 25, these "Creative Insights" may seem unworthy of careful consideration. In fact, von Oech provides a brief but insightful analysis of each which effectively demonstrates the wisdom of #12. Truly creative thinkers are always alert to what I call "the invisibility of the obvious." They are not threatened by or even uncomfortable with symbol, paradox, and ambiguity. On the contrary, their minds are stimulated by them.
Throughout his book, von Oech inserts a number of brief puzzles for the reader to solve. (The correct answers are included and explained within the "Final Thoughts" section.) These puzzles are fun to grapple with, of course, and presumably most readers will solve them of them.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Beth DeRoos HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This gem of a book is shy 200 pages and is set in four sections beginning with Stir Your Mind with Heraclitus, then The Creative Insights of Heraclitus, Final Thoughts and Answers to Puzzles. It's nice that on page 5 the author tells the reader who are unfamiliar with this Greek sage, who he was and when he lived. 500 BCE. "This means that he was an almost exact contemporary of the Chinese thinkers Lao-tzu and Confucious, the Indian contemplative Siddhartha Gautama (the historical Buddha) and was only a little younger than the Persian prophet Zarathustra."
On page 12 and 12 the author lists thirty epigrams which he believes best express Heraclitus' philosophy of the creative spirit. And being a mathematical and puzzle solving family we were intrigued with the puzzles of life that the author discusses. I think great thinkers love math and life puzzles.
As an example the letters of the alphabet can be grouped into four different categories (1)A,M (2) B,C,D,E,K;(3)F,G,J,K,L; and (4) H,I. Figure out the pattern and place the remaining 13 letters in their appropriate categories.
Or how about Find what the following words have in common: laughing, starburst, calmness, crabcake, stuffed, canopy, hijack.
Now the book is much more than mind games. It is after all about thinking outside the box, or simply thinking, which sadly many people are afraid to do. The author like his subject knows the value of straining ones brain. Asking questions and looking for more than one answer. Dissecting life's challenges and seeing each lesson as the next step to the next lesson and in the end wisdom.
The author realizes that digging deeper for questions and answers produced gems of wisdom and solutions and that we simply need to be open to the possibilities.
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