A Whack on the Side of the Head - Paper

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Creativity can be the source of fame and success, but tapping into this resource can be difficult for some. Some say that you are either born with or without creativity, while others argue that it is learned and absorbed throughout a person’s lifetime. In either case, there has to be a trigger that can jump-start the creative process for those who are in need a creative spark. Roger von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head is a short book describing how to figuratively “whack” some creativity into people. Roger von Oech states that there are ten mental blocks that hinder creativity, and sometimes, all people really need is a whack on the head to think differently and more clearly about their current situations. Members of society do not have a need to be creative for most of what they do, but for when people need to “think something different” these mental locks need to be identified and opened. Without unlocking the mind of its creative hindrances, new technologies and inventions would cease to exist. Roger von Oech’s book discusses the various techniques and tips to whack people’s thinking, and tries to enlighten his readers with mentally stimulating puzzles and theories.

A Whack on the Side of the Head is primarily sectioned into the ten mental locks that von Oech feels are forcing people to think “more of the same” in multiple situations. Each lock must be identified and overcome to progress toward a more creative and fulfilling lifestyle. The first mental lock is looking for the right answer. The educational system has taught us to always look for the single, correct answer. This is acceptable in most academic situations, but the problem with applying this “one right answer” philosophy in real world applications is that people stop searching for answers once they have found one that works. There are multiple solutions to problems, and just because one seems correct, it may not be the most correct. Looking for the second and third right answers can lead to more efficient and innovative production.

The second mental lock is thinking that something isn’t logical. There are two ways of thinking, hard and soft. Things with a hard side have one correct answer, while soft sided thinking has many correct answers. Also, there are two main phases in the creative development of ideas. The first phase is the imaginative phase, where one generally plays with ideas and asks many “what if” and “what rules can I break” type questions. On the other hand, practical thinking evaluates and executes ideas by asking questions such as “what is the deadline” and “who can help us?” Soft thinking is quite effective in the imaginative phase when searching for new ideas, while hard thinking is best used during the practical phase when one is preparing to carry and idea into action. Both thinking techniques should be used to produce more and better ideas, even when a certain style of thinking does not seem logical.

The next creativity lock is always following the rules. Roger von Oech doesn’t become cliché by saying “rules are meant to be broken” but he does insist that some rules should be challenged. In an ever-changing world, some rules are outdated and should adapt the appropriate, current way of living. For example, basketball used to have a jump ball after every basket. In 1938, after almost a half decade of basketball, this ruling finally was changed in order to make game play more continuous. It just made sense to break and change this rule for so long, but no one ever suggested it. One should be flexible with the rules. Breaking and bending the rules won’t necessarily lead to creative ideas; it is one possibility. Many rules outlive the purpose to which they were intended, and thus should be occasionally challenged.

Always being practical is an encumbrance to creativity. This world was built by practical people, but they knew when to unleash their creative side and achieve an imaginative frame of...
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