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Essay/Term paper: A wack on the side of the head

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Cliff Notes

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Acute Ambiguity

Roger von Oech, the author of A Whack on the Side of the Head, makes an unusual offer that thinking at random will increase the efficiency at which ideas become more abundant. This particular concept is certainly an original way to come up with new, fresh problem solving techniques. Ambiguity in the world can help new ideas flow for anyone when looked at in a creative way.

Chapter seven begins by explaining an example that would make the case against using ambiguity. In fact, the title of chapter seven is "Avoid Ambiguity". While it is true that vague statements leave questions unanswered, the traditional idea behind gathering information is to find specific details and clear communicated information. Ambiguous communication can be dangerous in some situations where the consequences of not understanding the complete picture can cause harm. Therefore, communication of specific information is needed in some situations, however, the author then goes on to explain how the ambiguous statement or event can lead to more accurate and applicable solutions.

In the event that a problem would arise in a company or social gathering that would call for a creative solution, random thinking techniques would be incredibly applicable. The author gives great examples of creative solutions and brainstorming techniques from the simple event such as a fundraiser all the way to complicated matters such as national defense strategies (von Oech, 1990). Many situations can be complimented by this type of thinking process. However, finding places to begin within a random pattern can be challenging.

Based on the random, ambiguous thinking technique, my wife and I used this method for a creative solution to figuring out how to decorate our nursery. We followed the different steps that the author suggests in order to come up with creative ideas. First, we asked ourselves the question, "What do we want out of the nursery?" Then, we opened the dictionary and picked a random definition to begin our thinking process. Next, we applied the random definition to the original question and came up with a nursery theme that the whole family can be proud of!

Another original concept that this book brought to the attention of the reader is that of foolishness. There are definitely benefits to conformity such as civilized societies and workplaces, however, the author states that very few original ideas come about in a setting of conformity. This creative and even uncomfortable technique can be very effective.

In a world of conformity like our United States military, the lack of originality becomes overly abundant. The ideas that flow in a non-traditional setting produce beautiful art, timeless music, and priceless entertainment. It never hurts to ask the opinion of the least likely candidate for the answer because it is difficult to determine what the opinion will be.

This concept was eluded to on an episode of Star Trek. In this situation, the Enterprise landed on a planet that had a genetically superior race of humans. This race had no deformities, health problems, or imperfections. The planet was in danger of a chemical that would wipe out the entire existence of the humans on this perfect planet. The irony was that the solution to this planet"s problem came from a device that helped a blind man on the Enterprise see. If the people of the Enterprise were perfect like the people on the planet, the idea for solving this problem would have never been found.

Roger von Oech"s book was a true source of idea stimulation. Creativity is such an important part of life both personal and professional, however, it is often overlooked or even stifled by the way in which we ask ourselves to solve problems. Many of concepts in this work can feel risky or even uncomfortable to perform, yet that is the part of each person that can bring out the best ideas.


Von Oech, Roger. (1990). A Whack on the Side of the Head. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.


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