Or A Whack On The Side Of The Head

The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens, they need a kick in the seat of their pants. Roger von Oech

This blog is an effort to get you to use the top of your head to create with, and not sit on. From my years of study and teaching in the field of decision making I learned that people often make decisions from the top of their heads or the seat of their pants. Therefore it is appropriate that I borrowed these two techniques from Roger von Oech’s two books, A Whack on the Side of the Head (1982) and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants (1986). These ideas were very influential to me during my time presenting and writing.

To get your thoughts out of a rut will require multi-faceted thinking. Roger von Oech lists different types of thinking: logical, conceptual, analytical, speculative, critical, foolish, divergent, convergent, reflective, visual, symbolic, metaphorical, practical, ambiguous, constructive, concrete, and fantasy. Can you add some others? Perhaps intuitive, rational, conservative, liberal, etc. Ask yourself if you use any, many, some or none of these types of thinking.

To expand your thinking, you may need a kick in the seat of the pants, or a whack on the side of your head. Here are some metaphoric roles (as von Oech suggests), each of which embodies a different type of thinking.

Explorer: When you’re searching for information, be an explorer. A good explorer knows that looking for ideas is like prospecting for gold. Poke around in new places. Do you search for information in the same old places? Do you use the same research strategy?

Artist: When you’re turning your resources into new ideas, be an artist. Change contexts, imagine. What if you look at it backwards? Can you make a metaphor? Break the rules? Fool around?  The artist’s role is to transform ideas into something new.

Judge: When you’re evaluating the merits of an idea, be a judge. Judging helps you decide what to do with the idea: implement it, modify it, or discard it. What’s wrong with this idea? What’s right? What if it fails?

How often do you change your thinking style? Can you be a judge, an explorer, an artist sometimes but not always? What are your favorite thinking styles/roles?  What other thinking styles/roles do you play?  What thinking roles or styles do you never play?

What assumptions are you making that could be inhibiting the expansion of your thinking?  What are some inhibiting assumptions you have identified in other people’s thinking? What are your beliefs about creative thinking? About your creative thinking?

Sometimes nothing short of a whack on the side of the head can dislodge the assumptions that keep us thinking more of the same. Roger von Oech

Our thoughts and actions are shaped by a myriad of causes — genetic, environmental and historical. Michael Shermer

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  1. Marianne Fontana says:

    We are moving in a week so I won’t really digest this blog well. Looking over it briefly, it is, as usual, thought provoking–from the top of my head, not the seat of my pants.

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