Book review on A Whack on the Side of the Head

It’s super hard to believe A Whack on the Side of the Head has been kicking sand into the face of boring approaches for 25 years or more.

Why? Because for stuff that makes perfect sense it’s surprising more people and companies haven’t taken it on board yet!

This is my little bouillabaisse summary of what the book gave me – I’m pretty sure it will give you something else, so if you can, please get your mitts on a copy.

Anyway, let’s get whacking!

We’re all connected, man!

The world is made up by a series of connections we make with the world around us. If you are playing the game where you spot the blue cars, you’ll notice a lot of blue cars on the road for weeks afterwards because you’ve trained yourself to look for them.

The book takes it a little bit further.

You’ll also ignore anything that contradicts that bubble of belief and invent ways around it so you can keep believing.

It’s not as sinister as it sounds. It’s what humans do. We seek out our own patterns and look for things to justify what we think and do.

If you can get your head around that, being able to communicate with people as opposed to at people starts making a lot more sense. You’ll start seeing what people respond well to instead of assuming you know best.

And you’ll be able to let go of ideas that really aren’t that good with more grace too.


Right Answers – the road to Wrongsville?

Why are your keys in the last place you look? Because if you kept looking once you’d found them, you’d be a bit weird. But what about the things you find on the way to your keys- are you limiting what else you can discover if you just focus on finding the one thing?

The message in the book is that there are potentially many ‘right’ answers, all depending on what you are looking for, so why settle for one?

If you only have one idea, you’ll only have one way out available to you if things don’t go to plan. That makes it a little more important to have a few more now doesn’t it?


Making Use of Waste

Don’t just solve problems, recognise opportunities. Every time you do something even if it doesn’t work the way you expect something happens. Sometimes those by-products can be more valuable than what you set out to do.

It pays to observe the things that don’t happen as a result of what you do as much as the things that do. That has to be the biggest lesson for marketing or startup I’ve heard in…well, ever.


Imagination + Practical = Yay

Don’t kid yourself into thinking one is more important than the other. Imagination is what sprouts your new idea and the practical is what cultivates them. If you can’t do both, can you find someone else to even up the see-saw?


Ideas and their funny personalities

It’s certainly fine to fall out of love with ideas. In fact, this is healthy behaviour. Hanging onto what doesn’t serve us anymore or having them around ‘just because’ is when it all goes tits up. If your idea sucks balls, get rid of it and let something else grow in its place.

On the flip side, you can absolutely adore the heck out of your wonderful idea, but unless you can communicate it to people, that passion won’t transfer.

“Dogs bark at what they don’t understand” and so too do customers, art critics, journalists and friends.

Don’t blame the audience for not understanding your message. You need to take responsibility for giving people the knowledge and tools needed to understand what you are aiming to do.

Otherwise, what’s the point?


It’s chockfull of quote-y goodness (we’re talking pages of Heraclitus alone!) so I won’t bore you to tears but here are my 3 favourites from the book:

“All art is a series of recoveries from the first line. The hardest part to put down is the first line, but you must.” Nathan Olivera, artist.

“Expect the unexpected or you won’t find it.” Heraclitus.

“Let a random piece of information stimulate your thinking.” Roger van Oech, author.


And for the final words of wisdom, some itty bitty creativity tips!

Creativity Tips:

  • Look for things in unusual places, don’t ignore patterns, metaphors and things that could inspire you.
  • Don’t be so busy you lose spare time because some of the best ideas come when the mind gets a chance to ‘play’.
  • Get out and see different things- challenge your senses and stay curious.
  • Allow yourself to be lead astray because what you are looking to discover or answer may not be as cool as what you stumble across (and besides, it’s fun).
  • See the obvious and don’t overlook solutions. Just because it makes so much sense you think someone else has made that conclusion into an opportunity, sometimes it’s not the case at all.
  • Don’t entertain group think unless you want to end up thinking just like everyone else.


You HAVE to read ‘A Whack on the Side of the Head’ if you are creative or in business. I’d go so far as to say anyone who’s ever wanted to do more with their life other than play it safe, be bored and wait to die should read it.

Yep, it’s that good.

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