You are on page 1of 3

Unlock Your Own Creativity has been written by Roger Von Oech an internationallyrecognized creativity consultant who has

worked with major companies from around the world,
including Anheuser-Busch, General Foods, Hallmark Cards, Hewlett-Packard, NASA and
Procter & Gamble. He's also the founder and president of "Creative Think", a consulting firm
that specializes in stimulating creativity and innovation.
His book, "A Whack on the Side of the Head", is a classic in the field of creativity and
innovation and is now on its 25th Edition. In addition, he's written two more excellent books on
creativity--"A Kick in the Seat of the Pants" and "Expect the Unexpected (or You Won't Find It):
A Creativity Tool Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Heraclitus"--and has created other products
to help stimulate idea generation, including creativity card decks and "The Ball of Whacks".
In this lens we find lots of interesting information about Roger's methods and techniques for
stimulating creativity; that is, for whacking you on the side of the head and kicking you in the
seat of the pants. As von Oech describes it, the book explains how you can engage in mental sex
– meaning “sex of our mental lives” (sheesh) as a way to generate new ideas.
What you really get is ten timeless approaches to freeing your brain so it can think in new,
innovative ways. The methods von Oech outlines are deceptive in that they are simple to
understand but not so simple to implement. They require that we recognize and purposely
circumvent certain routine mental locks or limits we all seem to accept without question. In other
words, according to von Oech: “We need the ability to unlearn what we know.” This has been
explained by Roger using the concept of “A Black Dot”. He held up a sheet of white paper and
put a black dot on it with his pen. He used this demonstration on thousands of adults during his
seminars and got the same answer from each one of them that it was just a black dot. But when
he tried the same with a bunch of kindergarten kids he got various interesting answers. Some said
it was a Mexican Hat, others said it was a Burnt Hamburger, a Squashed insect. Thus, he
concluded that when we are young, we are naturally creative because we let our minds run free.
But as we grow up and are taught to follow the rules, our thinking narrows. For much of life this
can be a blessing: it wouldn’t do to create a new way home from work if it meant driving down
the wrong side of the road.
Creativity is not all that mysterious. One important creative trait as well defined by noble prize
winning physician Albert Szent Gyorgyi is “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has
seen and thinking what nobody has thought .”
The lynchpin of the book is that “getting whacked” is an awakening so you suddenly discover a
new thought path, in a direction you wouldn’t have ventured before. ‘How do we start thinking
what nobody has thought’?
Usually it takes a whack on the head, like Sir Isaac Newton supposedly had when an apple
striking his skull awakened him to the laws of gravity. Whacks can range from something as
major as loosing a job to something as trivial as wanting an unusual dish for a dinner party. We
are more likely to respond creatively which is to say, think of a new idea, if we have been
chipping away at the “Mental Locks” that close our minds. Von Oech’s Ten Mental Locks are
The Right Answer, That’s Not Logical, Follow the Rules, Be Practical, Avoid Ambiguity, I’m
Not Creative, To Err is Wrong, Play is Frivolous, Don’t Be Foolish, That’s Not My Area.

You might play with the idea of “Venus” and say. then my answer would be “no” because it is a highly impractical endeavor. Clearly.One thing I recommend is that companies put a “innovation requirement” in people’s performance plans. then they’ll put part of their workday focus in looking for innovative solutions. if that’s what you really intend to do. and one of the characters has recurring dreams about “opening a chain of ‘Large and Tall’ men’s clothing stores on the planet Venus. Sony. and also b) have some application or feasibility in a particular context. but as a metaphor for a place of love. “if I look at Venus not as a planet. Microsoft. Dupont. I think there are strategies you can employ to bolster your creativity. then you might end up with a creative idea. that’s pretty original! But is it creative? Well. the ability to think creatively is not evenly distributed.And. Let me give an “off-the-wall” example. I do assume that part of our genetic inheritance as human beings is the ability to look at the world in new and different ways. My basic style is fun and informative (at least I hope it is). But let’s suppose that you’re writing a novel. yes. selling other “love” accoutrements in the store. can people be trained to become more creative? Actually. what ideas does that give me?” And this could lead to all sorts of possibilities such as: clothing emphasizing romance. 2) Considering you have been consulting. If you’re part of a work culture that encourages — and expects — you to come up with innovative ideas. Of course. just to name a few). these Mental Locks are our uncritical aceptance of seven common statements: 1) There are many different definitions for creativity out there. It also helps to give them the skills and tools to think creatively and implement innovative change. And just as some people can run faster or jump higher than others. is there any of them that appeal to you or do you have your own definition? Yes. however. If people know they’re going to be measured — and rewarded — for coming up with ideas. In this case. etc. One that has worked for me over the years is: It’s the process that produces ideas which are both a) new and different. Thus. Disney. . promoting the store as the place where it’s “Valentine’s Day” all year long. the marketplace and your own business abilities will ultimately determine how practical the ideas are. and he consults with a dream therapist and they have ongoing discussions about it and this advances the plot. then you will probably look for ways to come up with different approaches to solve traditional problems. It is truly original. Let’s suppose that you have an idea for opening a chain of “Large and Tall” men’s clothing stores on the planet Venus. CitiGroup. If you ask yourself: “How can I play with the idea to make it practical“. you look at this strange idea and decide to use it as a “stepping stone” to an idea that is both original and practical. But many people tend to lose their creativity as they go through the school system and become socialized into adulthood. and you have the above idea. But we all have it to some extent. How fast. let’s suppose that you really are thinking about going into the retail clothing business. making the store like a love den. One other thing. In other words. writing and speaking about creativity for the past 30 years I assume that creativity is not something we are born with but rather a skill we can develop. there are a lot of definitions of creativity. the concept is creative because it works in a particular context. What role does the corporate culture play in stimulating creativity among the employees? It plays a very significant role. 3) You have worked with many of the largest organizations in the world (IBM. my definition of creativity emphasizes both originality and practicality.According to his book “A Whack on the Side of the Head”. I wouldn’t be in this business if I believed otherwise! My books and card decks contain a lot of these strategies.

spend time with them. 5) I like to define invention as new concepts or products that emerge from individual’s ideas or from scientific research. An advertising medium. talk with their colleagues. then all the good alternatives will go undiscovered. and fifth right answer. Do they rely on just one approach. are there any simple exercises that people can do at home or in the office to stimulate their creativity? I think the easiest — and most powerful — creativity strategy you can employ at home or in the office is this: “Look for the second right answer.” When most people have a problem. How can you understand if someone is creative? Is there any way to test it? Talk to them. That approach is fine for certain problems — mathematical ones come to my mind.” A large part of the human brain is given over to hand and eye functions. But most problems have a variety of answers. There are many fields and domains where one can do this.” I wrote a 96 page illustrated guidebook that provides the user with some creative strategies and exercises he can employ. But this is how I carry these words around in my head. Playing with the individual pieces — they are actually rhombic pyramids — and making various shapes and forms with them will get your brain going in a way that just reading or sitting at a computer does not. Give them some open-ended problems to solve. . An emergency tracheotomy tool. on the other hand. But if you look for the second. But these are just my definitions. not just geniuses. I tend to think of “innovation” as being more in the realm of industry. “creativity” is the ability to come up with original and feasible ideas. you are more likely to get some good creative alternatives. For example: I’m holding a pen. “Invention” (for me) typically refers to a specific product or service that is new. For me. What is it? A writing device — the first right answer.Do they have a sense of humor? I think that’s very important: there’s a close relationship between the “ha-ha” of humor and the “aha” of creative discovery. they stop with the first right answer they find. Innovation. I also like to the think of the Ball of Whacks as a “creativity” workshop in a ball. A hole punch. A coffee stirrer. and commerce.4) In the near future I am planning to start my own company.” But we need change.the type of change that comes through the creative thinking of all people. A weapon. refers to the implementation (or commercialization) of the invention itself. ”The only person who likes change is a wet baby. and third. As a management consultant Roy Blitzer had said. and if you stop looking after you find an answer. How can such an apparently simple object function as a creativity tool? I like to think of the Ball of Whacks as a “creative stimulant” and “mental freshener. And I think of “innovation” as getting a larger enterprise to change. Should it become successful I will need to hire some people. business. and probably I will want creative people to join my team. According to you what is the relationship between invention. 6) I am very curious about your Ball of Whacks (a piece composed of 30 magnetic blocks that can be taken apart and rearranged in many different ways). See how many ways they can solve them. Playing with the Ball of Whacks is also a lot of fun. Can they laugh at themselves? Do they have wide interests that go beyond the narrow confines of your particular field? Do they seek out ideas and information from outside areas and disciplines? Do they have any offbeat hobbies? That’s a start. or are they able to approach the problems from several points of view. But what are the other right answers? It’s a pointer. innovation and creativity? Some of this is just semantics. 7) Final question. A telephone dialer.