A Whack on the side of the head By Roger von Oech

A Whack on the side of the head

“How you can be more Creative”

By Roger von Oech

Illustrated by George Willett

First published 1983 Business Plus, Grand Central Publishing, New York – Boston, USA, ISBN: 978 0911121 13 7 

Ebook edition published 2011 by Creative Think, California, USA. ePubEdition.com. xxx number of pages 

An interesting and informative read, written in a relaxed, undemanding and engaging style supported by cleverly thought out illustrations. The author presents his arguments through metaphors, analogies and researched accounts and states that this publication is “intended as a fun and informative read” and sets forth to make it so through his light phrasing of similes and arguments. He admits the influence of and his admiration for Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c.500bc) and uses him as a keystone for his thesis, referring to Heraclitus as the “first creative teacher”. 

What the author’s core thesis is, is in its self is at times confusing. Is it on creativity, the creative process or is it on developing ideas? A statement by the author on his understanding and interpretation of the terms he uses would be helpful.

What are the author’s definition of; creative, creativity, creative abilities and terms such as enquiry, discovery, ideas, generating ideas, creative ideas and creative thinking (lateral thinking) and how does he differentiate between them? Without this preliminary clarity, the reader is open to confusion in interpreting and understanding the author’s concepts.  

Location 104 of 2732xxxx 

The author’s brief acknowledgment that, “knowledge is the stuff from which new ideas are made” is almost immediately dismissed by “knowledge alone won’t make a person creative”.  

Some reference to the benefits of the reader having prior learning (knowledge) in their area (field of study) in which they aspire to be creative would have been of assistance in understanding that knowledge is a prerequisite to enabling the possibility of creativity.  

Equally the light reference to the motivating prerequisite of having, identifying or inventing a problem to solve (within the readers field of knowledge or overlapping fields of knowledge), deserved stating and explaining to reflect its importance in the creative process. 

A wider literary research of existing works on creativity by such authors as those listed below would have enhanced the author’s understanding of the terms: creativity, creative thinking, and how they differ from generating ideas and discovery. 

The publication suffers from the absence of an editor as evidenced at times in the loose use of language, lax grammar and insufficient structure to the presentation of the thesis. 

Having said all that, it is a read worth persevering with and should be evaluated in the context of other writings by such authors as: 

Boden, Margaret. (1996) The Creative Mind. London: Abacus.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. (1997) Creativity. New York: Harper-Collins.

De Bono, Edward. (1970) Lateral Thinking. London: Penguin.

Johnson, Stephen. (2010) Where Good Ideas Come From. London: Penguin Group.

Koestler, Arthur. (1975) The Act of Creation. London Picador.

Robertson, Ian. (1999) Types of Thinking London/New York: Routledge.

Winchester, Simon. (2008) Bomb, Book and Compass, (Joseph Needham and the Great Secrets of China). London: Penguin Group.


Patrick Molloy for www.stagebrace.com

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