I remember when I was in philosophy 101 my first year at FSU. Each day the professor would put a proof on the projector and in three simple steps you’d see an argument proving the existence of god. The next class would be another philosopher’s proof in just as many steps proving�
why there is no god. Each day I’d leave class, my entire foundation of beliefs and understanding of the universe completely different.
Each chapter of Roger Von Oech’s (his name even sounds like a philosopher) A Whack on The Side of The Head is like walking into class each day and seeing a different proof on the board, each a new argument on How You Can Be More Creative. Unlike philosophy-101-proofs, each chapter supports the next in providing tools for encouraging, inspiring and promoting your creativity.
Philosophy classes continue to examine relevant ideas from the past. Today, it’s possible nothing is more relevant than a book on creativity and innovation, so as I think about philosophy 101 it’s appropriate that A Whack on The Side of The Head, How to Be More Creative is celebrating its twenty fifth anniversary with it’s new and improved edition.
Von Oech consistently whacks the reader with ways of being more creative whether it is embracing irrational ideas, humor, slaying a sacred cow, being silly or using a different perspective. What makes the book so accessible is the way Von Oech uses concrete examples from history, the fact that we kept the Qwerty keyboard or the development of birth control to make each point. Then he sprinkles in enough personal anecdotes to not only illustrate his “how to,“ but to make you feel as if you and him are about to sit down across from one another and just be creative together.
Whack isn’t really just a “how to” for creativity it is a “how to” succeed in anything, have more fun at work and live a happier life. ”The most beautiful order is a heap of sweepings piled at random.” Von Oech dedicates a chapter to ambiguity and the book lives it well with ambiguous nuggets, like the one above, from Heraclitus, whom he calls the world’s first creativity teacher. While Heraclitus can certainly be applied to creativity it isn’t limited to it as are most of the other lessons from Whack.
A great strength of the book is its structure, each chapter stands on its own, Von Oech notes it was his intent that each could be read separately and independently of the whole. It isn’t only a great feature of the book possibly the best way to experience the richness. Further, at the end of each chapter Von Oech provides a summary, so when referencing the book in the middle of a hectic day it’s easy to whack yourself in the the head in just a page. This isn’t only a great feature of the book but most likely the best way to experience its richness.
And though I value the ambiguity Von Oech celebrates, when I say, “I plan on whacking myself repeatedly,” this is one moment no ambiguity is intended.
><(("> Jeff Brainard
Jeff is a ><((“> friend of Catch Your Limit, a management and marketing firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit www.catchyourlimit.com.