“A whack on the side of the head” is a witty compilation of thoughts and metaphors that can help stimulate one’s creativity. The author begins the book by explaining the concept of “mental locks” and how they prevent us from reaching our ultimate creative capacity. The book is a criticism of the way we are all taught, right from school, to have the right answers rather than looking out for questions and seeing things differently. Creative thinking, he says, is the equivalent of mental sex! A good way to learning how to think is disregarding our first bright idea and go in search of the second one, that would likely be the result of more innovative thinking than the first. “Inconsistency and contradiction are the hallmarks of human existence”, says the author and then proceeds to explain that nothing is set in stone and we can challenge the rules to completely flip the way we see things. Avoiding contradictions could help clarity of communication but at the same time, inviting contradiction could pose new possibilities.
He tell us a story of how the QWERTY keypad was introduced as a means to slow down typing speed so that typewriter keys don’t get jammed! This is a wonderful example of how we could get stuck in obsolete ideas and forget to escape from them. Creativity is shown to be the collective responsibility of the whole group and a way to ensure this is to avoid “group thinking”, as conformity leads to stifling of multiple points of view. Making light of a situation is also a good way to get creative juices going, breaking away from the mental lock of “seriousness” to get work done. “Humor forces you to combine ideas that are usually not associated with one another”, thus putting on one’s fools cap and being absurd, irreverent, metaphorical and cryptic helps to reverse the view.
I think that a lot of the ideas discussed in the book relates to my understanding of “Design Thinking” The four step method of becoming an explorer, artist, judge and then warrior almost neatly aligns with the design thinking steps of discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution. Asking “what if” questions to open up one’s imagination, adding constraints to increase creativity, encouraging trial and error, working with the hands to stimulate the brain and the cross-fertilization of ideas are all topics we have explored during our study of design management. Disruptive thinking is what sets our discipline apart and the belief that we truly can make a difference, not just to the profitability of companies, but also the social responsibility and sustainability. The whack on the other side of the head, as Von Oech says, is to “believe in the worth of your ideas and have the persistence to continue building on them.”