Customer Reviews: A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative
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on May 15, 1999
This book deserves 8 stars out of 5! My first encounter with this book came when my roommate gave it to me as a Christmas present. She had read it in a creativity course and said this book changed her perception of the world and helped her be more creative.It is clearly organized and very easy to understand. Plus, it gives you the tools to apply its ideas to your problems in order to find creative solutions. Now a year later I give A Whack on the Side of the Head to my friends for Christmas! I also loved his new product on Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher. The cards feature thirty sayings that will make you think about the world and your problems in a whole new way. Kudos Roger von Oech on all your creative thinking tools.
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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" which limit (if not preclude) 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 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. When you listen to Richard Feyman's lectures on physics (now available on audio cassettes), 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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on May 7, 2002
I did seminar and workshop on entrepreneruship and creativity and have read probably about 20 books on creativity. And i have to admit this is the BEST BOOK on creativity. this is THE CLASSIC book on the subject. The author hs just written a new book (EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED) but this onw is WAY SUPERIOR and BETTER.
This is an old book but still freash to read and delighting to enjoy. The samples and the materials are easy to read yet very2 strong and useful.
I gave away this books to friends who want to learn more about creativity and want to change his/her attitude toward life.
Most people know that creativity is one of the key element of success yet so few take action of any sort to do something about it. So do yourself a favor, go and buy this book, read, and start think about it in your daily life. it will be beneficial for your future success and happiness.
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on May 29, 2006
I am a raving fan of Roger von Oech's creative work as embodied in his books & card decks, namely:


- A Whack on the Side of the Head;
- A Kick in the Seat of the Pants;
- Expect the Unexpected;

Card Decks:

- Creative Whack Pack;
- Innovative Whack Pack;
- Ancient Whacks of Heraclitus;

I have used all his creativity stuff ever since I started my own strategy consulting (& book store) business in late 1991.

From my personal & professional experience, I would like to say that the entire collection of Roger von Oech's creative work has been designed to serve three strategic purposes:

- understanding - & removing - your mental blocks;
- breaking your habitual patterns;
- shifting your focus & changing your paradigms;

As a matter of fact, once you appreciate & commit to these three strategic purposes in your life, you will soon realise that there is nothing in this world to stop you from getting rid of old ideas & getting new & fresh ideas.

Allow me to quote Edward de Bono: "...the mind is habitually uncreative - it is usually preoccupied with organising masses of incoming data into convenient patterns. Once this pattern is established, then the mind tends to rely upon that pattern in future situations, in order to facilitate decision making & action in an otherwise complex world..." (The Use of Lateral Thinking).

Breaking old habitual patterns is definitely the first & foremost priority in your journey to creativity!

Once your shift your focus, you begin to change your paradigms or the way you look at the world around you. Always remember this: Your brain follows the direction of your dominant thought. Once you focus on something, that thing becomes the foreground. Everything else around it will fall into the background. Most opportunties are unfortunately hidden in the background. The moment you begin to shift your focus, you are pushing the 'foreground' into the 'background', & pulls the 'background' into the 'foreground'. Get it?

'A Whack on the Side of the Head' will help you to break through your mental blocks. They will open up your mind for innovation. This book is filled with provocative puzzles, exercises, stories & helpful tips.

'A Kick in the Seat of the Pants' takes you on a guided tour through the four stereotype roles of the creative process - Explorer, Artist, Judge & Warrior. Understanding - & applying - these roles will fire up your personal & professional creativity. Tactically, they will change your mental focus as you change to play each of the four roles. I would like to add one more role from what I have learned from the Japanese creativity experts: Antique Dealer. This singular role will allow you to combine all the four roles into one.

'Expect the Unexpected' uses thirty of Heraclitus' (the world's first creativity master) epigrams as creative springboards. It has intriguing questions designed to topple old habits of thought & fire up your imagination.

All the three card decks are basically extensions of the three books, to allow convenient usage during brainstorming sessions.

From my strategy consulting experience, these three card decks have proven to be inexhaustible sources of inspirations.

In fact, the 'Innovative Whack Pack' combines the creative power of both the 'Creative Whacks' & 'Ancient Whacks of Heraclitus'.

I strongly urge readers to seriously consider having the entire collection of Roger von Oech's creative work added to your Creativity & Innovation Library, & all the three card decks placed permanently on your desk top at all times.

[Readers who are keen to explore further ramifications about mental blocks, should read James Adams' 'Conceptual Blockbusting'. This book, written in th mid-70's, gives a detailed treatment by classifying them into Perceptual, Emotional, Cultural & Environmental, Intellectual & Expressive Blocks. A marvellous piece of work, I must say. Charles 'Chic' Thompson's 'Yes...But: The Top 40 Killer Phrases & How to Fight Them' is also worth reading.]
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on October 2, 2013
I read through the book and tried to apply it's ideas to some projects I was working on, but didn't find it very useful - I found the humor style pretty corny, and the techniques it talks about seem mostly to be the author amusing himself with his personal fascination with metaphors. "How is your problem like an eggbeater" doesn't generate that many useful ideas for me, compared to many other possible, more focused techniques and thinking tools - I think our brains are naturally good at metaphors, but that doesn't mean we should sit down with a list of random things and try to connect them together by force of will - better to let the brain find connections naturally I think, from its years of experience and memories of the world.

It's core principle of "what's your 2nd and 3rd idea" (paraphrasing) is a useful one though - think of many possible solutions instead of just going with the first one.

The writing style was a bit tedious to me too - take one theory or statement, like "people use metaphors", and then fill pages upon pages of anecdotes that support that theory ("when people are tired they say *burning out*"). Plus some name-dropping of big corporations he's taught seminars too. Felt like the signal-to-noise ratio was low - the number of useful ideas & techniques was small compared to the amount of redundant pontification on each one.

I also read "Conceptual Blockbusting", and that book has been more helpful for me - covers a wide range of possible techiques and approaches, and creative blocks to watch out for, where this one seems to focus on just a tiny subset of that book's breadth, despite a similar number of pages.

A lot of people found the book entertaining and helpful obviously - maybe the style just didn't resonate with me personally, or covered stuff I already feel like I have a handle on.
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A Whack on the Side of the Head is a book that deserves some time. If you rush this book, you will miss much of its value. Roger von Oech uses a combination of explanation, puzzles, and irreverent artwork in his treatise on creative thinking. People who consider themselves creative will instantly take to this book. People who don't feel they are creative may be a little intimidated by the format of the book, but if they can buckle down and force themselves to give it a chance, they stand to gain the most from the book. Reading this book can help you reawaken the imaginative thinking process most people abandoned in their childhood. We from getAbstract recommend this book to anyone who wants to be more creative; it will be as useful for a high school student as it is for an advertising executive or a software programmer.
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on January 14, 2001
Roger's classic book on creativity belongs on everyone's bookshelf. I first read an earlier edition of this book when I was responsible for running a division of a Fortune 500 company. Some of the ideas we developed were the direct result of techniques that Roger shares in his book...the result...a new business concept that grew into a $50 million division in two years.
The book (and related card-deck) is well-researched, written, and the illustrations are wonderful. If you are looking for a book that will whack you (or your organization) into new ways of thinking, order "Whack" today.
This book was a seed that inspired me to explore creativity in depth and to write Aha! - 10 Ways To Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas. It is wonderful to have had a seminal work like Roger's as a springboard.
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on February 27, 2005
Roger von Oech is one of the older voices in innovation. A Whack on the Side of the Head was originally published in 1983. Von Oech is different from most innovation gurus in that he is genuinely well read. At first you might not know it. This book, like most others in its genre, has a seemingly endless number of cute quotes and little stories. Do these guys spend all their time collecting this stuff? Von Oech was a Phi Beta Kappa classics major, who then got a Doctorate at Stanford in the history of ideas. What this means is that he has a good nose for distinguishing important ideas from interesting stories. That, no doubt, is why his book is still selling well twenty years later.
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on August 26, 2004
I first came across Roger Von Oech when I was a trainer - training other leaders - in a worldwide youth organisation. The ability to think outside the square is important in any lifepath and Von Oech is easy to dip in and out of to get prompted in another direction when life the way ahead looks too narrow.

After borrowing them from libraries many times over the years I now own my own copy of both this and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, also by Von Oech. I use them frequently and highly recommend them both.
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on February 18, 2004
I remember first reading this book at some point in the mid-1980's when I borrowed it from the local library. It seemed like a fun, quick read with the big fonts and plentiful cartoon-like drawings. I borrowed it again a few times after that, and went on to read A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, also by von Oech. A few years later when I was in university and had a bit more money I came across it in the university bookstore and picked up a copy for myself immediately. In the 10 years since, I've reread the book numerous times, and would confidently put it in my list of top-10 business books of all time.
For someone like myself who probably has the adult version of ADD (I rarely finish any book before picking up at least two or three other ones), this is one of the few books that I can come back to time and again. I have von Oech's other books, and tools such as the card decks, but still find the original work to be the best and most inspiring. Now working in a corporate marketing group, I use the tools in leading group discussions, and routinely give copies to coworkers and friends to force them to challenge their way of thinking.
Some of the people I've lead in workshops have commented that the "whacks" are simply a collection of others' ideas, common knowledge and cliches. Maybe. But von Oech does a wonderful job of bringing them together and presenting them in a manner that is concise, entertaining, and as a result highly effective.
If you're interested in creativity, innovation, "disruption", trying to overcome writer's block, or just trying to "think outside of the bun" I strongly suggest that you give this book a read.
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