A Whack on the Side of the Head

Back to the Classic

I love dusting off old, classic books and getting inspired by great authors. Roger von Oech wrote a classic book on creativity in 1983, A Whack on the Side of the Head. Whack is a great read that provides a fun, simple overview of the creativity process.


I hadn’t read this book in several years but it is one of my favorites. I typically give this book as a gift to help motivate people to embrace creativity and improve their lives and business. The author explains 10 mental blocks, and the four roles in the creative process.

Mental Locks

There are ten “mental locks” to creativity and von Oech provides guidance how to overcome them. These mental locks are myths of creativity that often hinder our creativity. Anyone can improve their creative thinking skills; it just takes motivation and learning a few tools. The ten myths von Oech notes follows:

  1. The Right Answer

  2. That’s Not Logical

  3. Follow the Rules

  4. Be Practical

  5. Play is Frivolous

  6. That’s Not My Area

  7. Don’t Be Foolish

  8. Avoid Ambiguity

  9. To Err Is Wrong

  10. I’m Not Creative


Von Oech also outlines four roles within the creative process, explorer, artist, judge, and warrior. Each role oversees the four steps of creativity. The need to shift between different thinking methods is critical as we move between each role.


The explorer searches for new information and resources. The artist creates new ideas. The judge evaluates the benefits of each idea and decides which offer the highest probability of success. And, the warrior puts the idea into use. Creativity requires the flexibility to move seamlessly between each role.

You Need Creativity

Anyone can improve his or her creative thinking skills. Like any other skill (e.g., playing the piano, skiing, shooting free throws), creativity requires using the proper tools and practice. Most importantly it takes commitment to become a creative individual. The information within this book will help you overcome barriers to creativity and allow you to navigate the creative process by adopting each role.

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As the global business environment becomes increasingly competitive, technology rapidly iterates, socio-economic issues influence behavior, and ongoing political and environmental challenges all industries, every person within an organization needs to develop creative thinking skills. The need for continuous improvement and the development of new business and product concepts is critical to stay ahead of fast-moving competitors. Complacency and acceptance of the status quo is a recipe for disaster.

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A Whack on the Side of the Head should be a part of everyone’s library. Along with classic creative thinking authors such as Dr. Edward de Bono, Michael Michalko, Doug Hall, and many others – von Oech provides a great foundation to improve your creativity skills. I also recommend his other book A Kick in the Seat of the Pants as well as his deck of cards, Innovative Whack Pack.

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Teams need to use deliberate and systematic methods to drive creative thinking. A structured method of creativity ensures effective and efficient creativity sessions. Having mental flexibility along with the foundational creative thinking skills allow anyone to develop new ideas to change the business and delight customers. The more everyone in the organization challenges themselves, stretch their thinking, and use creative thinking daily, the higher probabilities of business and product success.