A Whack on the Side of the Head

When I was a kid (I know, you all shudder with dread when I start my posts with that phrase), I was heavily involved with Odyssey of the Mind. In fact, that was where the 7 Wonders skit came from. My mom was the coach. And when she needed a little help kickstarting our creative thinking, she turned to a lot of different sources. One of them being a pair of books called A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, both by Roger von Oech. He has written other books and created other projects since, but those are the two that really made a deep impression on me.

In recent weeks, Roger has become a good friend to the BOF blog, and he gave me a call the other day. It seems he has begun to dip his own toes in the blog waters as well. We chatted for a while and, in a gesture that he told me he hoped didn’t sound like shameless self-promotion, he offered to send me his latest thought starter. That being a Ball of Whacks. It’s this strange little ball, about the size of an apple made of 30 magnetic pieces. From there… the uses are yours to discover. It comes with a little book of starter suggestions, but the fun is really in manipulating the pieces to find your own shapes. He said the idea stemmed from a study on mental acuity he had read. Two groups of adults were given a mental acuity test, but before the test, one group spent time in a library, doing studious, library-type things, while the other group was given apples and paring knives. Guess which group scored higher?

Which got me thinking – A lot of the techniques that we employ in our insight phase involve getting people out of their concrete thought patterns and coming at (and discovering) their real opinions from a new angle. It’s the same idea. Some of the best thinking you do is when you distract yourself from thinking about what you think you’re supposed to be thinking about. (say that 5 times fast!)
We received our Ball of Whacks yesterday… and we can’t keep our hands off it. Thanks Roger!

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