Tag: Creativity

Roger Von Oech: Innovative Whack Pack

You want to be more innovative right?

Professor Sanjay Bakshi shares with Farnam Street readers some of his favorite cards from Roger Von Oech’s Innovative Whack Pack.

Spot the Opportunity

A leading business school did a study that showed that its graduates did well at first, but in ten years, they were overtaken by a more streetwise, pragmatic group. The reason according to the professor who ran the study: “We taught them how to solve problems, not to recognize opportunities.”

Getting Away from the Problem

Archimedes, the third-century BC Greek mathematician, was asked to determine the purity of a gold crown suspected of being adulterated with silver by the crown’s goldsmith. Archimedes knew the weight per volume unit of gold, but since the crown was a holy object, he ruled out solutions such as melting it or hammering it into a measurable cube. After several frustrating weeks of not finding an answer, Archimedes decided to get away from the problem altogether by going to the public baths. There he watched absentmindedly while the water rose with the immersion of his body in the tub. Suddenly inspiration dawned: why not use the same immersion process with the crown? Because gold is denser than silver, he realized that the water would not rise as high for a solid gold crown as for one containing silver.

Update: Part of this is incorrect. A solid gold crown and one containing silver will displace the same amount of water. Because he knew the density of gold, Archimedes was able to compare the density of the crown to that of gold. This allowed him to determine if it was gold, silver, or some combination of the two. For more, see this explanation of calculating density using Archimedes’ water displacement here.

Back Off

In other words, sometimes delaying action can be the best course of action. That’s because while you are waiting, you can gather more information about the most fruitful way to proceed.

For example, designer Christopher Williams tells a story about an architect who built a cluster of large office buildings that were set on a central green. When construction was completed, the landscape crew asked him where he wanted the pathways between the buildings.

“Not yet,” the architect said. “Just plant the grass solidly between the buildings.”

This was done, and by late summer pedestrians had worn paths across the lawn, connecting building to building. The paths turned in easy curves rather than right angles, and were sized according to traffic.

In the fall, the architect simply paved the pathways. Not only did the new pathways have a design beauty, they responded directly to user needs.

Moral: pause for a bit and let the important things catch up with you.

Disrupt Success
Innovative Whack Pack

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Innovative Whack Pack


(images posted with the permission of Roger Von Oech)

The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas


Do people desire creative ideas? If so, why do we so naturally resist them?

We think that creativity is an important educational goal so why does the research indicate that teachers dislike students who exhibit curiosity and creative thinking?

Three researchers took a stab at the answer:

We offer a new perspective to explain this puzzle. Just as people have deeply-rooted biases against people of a certain age, race or gender that are not necessarily overt (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995), so too can people hold deeply-rooted negative views of creativity that are not openly acknowledged. Revealing the existence and nature of a bias against creativity can help explain why people might reject creative ideas and stifle scientific advancement, even in the face of strong intentions to the contrary.

Creative ideas are novel and useful. Yet idea-evaluators (decision-makers) have a hard time “viewing novelty and practicality as attributes that go hand in hand,” and, in fact, often view them as inversely related.

When endorsing a novel idea, people can experience failure, perceptions of risk, social rejection when expressing the idea to others, and uncertainty about when their idea will reach completion.

And we generally like to avoid uncertainty:

Although the positive associations with creativity are typically the focus of attention both among scholars and practitioners, the negative associations may also be activated when people evaluate a creative idea. For example, research on associative thinking suggests that strong uncertainty feelings may make the negative attributes of creativity, particularly those related to uncertainty, more salient

The authors conclude:

Our results show that regardless of how open minded people are, when they feel motivated to reduce uncertainty either because they have an immediate goal of reducing uncertainty, or feel uncertain generally, this may bring negative associations with creativity to mind which result in lower evaluations of a creative idea.

Source: The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire: But Reject Creative Ideas