Roger von Oech

Creative Think

What I Post About:

AddThis Feed Button

« My Ingmar Bergman Marathon | Main | Postcard from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo »


David Armano


I enjoyed Kathy's post as well—and Ironically I also use both the Whack Pack and IDEO cards to help stimulate my thinking. They are actually nice compliments.

And speaking of Random—I recently wrote a random post about travel. Totally unplanned and I thought it would be a dud—but decided to publish it because that was the mood I was in.

To my surprise I've been getting all of these interesting comments that have been very insightful.

So yes, random thinking can be very powerful as a tool to help take our thinking to that next level.

Speaking of travel—have fun in Egypt!

Stephen Denny

Roger: a funny analogy to this point -- flies tend to escape from bottles more often than bees do... apparently, bees logically fly towards the light and flies do what flies do best, which apparently is bounce off of glass in random directions. Eventually, many of them bounce through the neck of the bottle (and end up in whatever you're drinking, but that's another story).

We do tend to limit ourselves by setting up constraints to our thinking. After all, "we're experts and we know what's best", right? Very often, we don't find the bottle opening because of our limited thinking -- usually the same problem that probably got us into this mess in the first place...

Tom Haskins

Yesterday I tried pulling a random idea from a book and I used a HyperCard version of iChing I wrote 15 years ago. The iChing was a better oracle. That got me thinking about randomness AND synchronicities. Roger, your experience with pulling the "Try and Random Idea" from your Whack Pack is a synchronicity. My iChing reading was like that too - an acausal, meaningful coincidence. I wonder if the randomness works best if its confined to a deck of cards like the Whack Pack, Tarot or iChing? I suspect its possible to get too random which cuts down on the "amazing coincidence" -- as well as "not random enough" which gets back to the problem Kathy Sierra addressed beautifully.

Valeria Maltoni


I think what your 3 points have in common is an open spirit -- ask and you shall receive/be given; accept what is; trust that what you receive is the right thing/response. Ask, accept, and trust sometimes require more of us.

I love Stephen's story, we must have been in school together or something like that!

Tom's synchronicity resonates with some of my search through Eastern philosophies and spiritual beliefs. I believe there are no coincidences in life -- only choices.

Thank you for the inspiration (Lat. in spirit = breath of life).

Roger von Oech

David: Thanks for the good wishes. It's interesting about posts. I had a recent one (How Do You See the Obvious?) that I thought was just a Roger-head-trip and it turned out to be my most commented on. And, like everyone else, I've experienced just the opposite many times.

Steve: Great analogy! Are you more bee-like and fly-like?

Tom: Wonderful comments. I haven't thought about the I Ching in a good long time. But it's a great way to use the random in a systematic way. Here's something random for you: tomorrow open up the obituary section of your newspaper and pick out the second person listed in the national (or international) area. Ask yourself: "How would this person approach my problem?"

Valeria: Well put. You have a nice way of cutting right to the essence of things.

Would you say that you are you more bee-like or fly-like?

David Anderson

BUT, Roger... there is an entirely different interpretation of your Indian hunting map story: your assumption of randomness may be quite faulty... you assume that the lines on the leather were random and "just happened" to point the hunters to the game.

However,instead, the world may be much more "magical" ---- much more self-arranging... When the old Indian (who no doubt was a shaman) asked the question prayerfully, he KNEW that a real answer would come.

Your own experience of "happening" to draw the random card out of your own deck ALSO DEMONSTRATES precisely this.... called by some "synchronicity"

And for those who believe in such a world... well they truly experience it, frequently.

David Anderson

so I hadn't read the other comments when I posted mine.. and see that some other people had the same idea

but let us now consider whether: IS THERE ACTUALLY ANY RANDOM? ... or does the world instead conform to expectation and somehow to focus of attention.

Dean Radin and others have done interesting experiments watching what happens to random number generators when a large amount of human attention is focused onto a single event.... like the super bowl, for example. What they found was that supposedly random generators went non-random, statistically speaking... not only during the event, but even slightly previous to the event, itself, starting. This pattern occurred in several machines, in different locations, so the phenomena is not just a fluke.

Roger von Oech

David: Thanks for joining the conversation. I like the way you look at it. However, not everyone is ready to jump to the magical interpretation . . . and for them calling it "random" is a nice way to get them through the door of considering such things (magic).

Also, interesting example about the Super Bowl.

David Anderson

& I am glad you are sharing your various thoughts... it is stimulating of expansion

let us, however, consider the meaning of words.... of terms .. like "magical".

What if the currently-in-place "normal"... "linear"... "cause & effect" are just as "magical" as anything else?

What if everything manifested procedes from some kind of logic.... from some kind of system of core belief?

What if "a true magician" is actually only an individual capable of thinking (and believing) a logical system quite different than the norm, and thus can produce results also quite different than the norm?

What if "the creative engine" is the same in both cases, but because the input is radically different, so also is the output radically different?

Graham Horton

Let me turn the topic on its head (which itself is a good way of generating ideas.)

Imagine an oracle which had lost its powers of prediction. Every time anyone asked it for inspiration, it always replied "parrot". The inspiration-seeker then dutifully thought about this answer until he or she came up with a solution for his or her problem.

When teaching students about idea generation techniques, I tell them that it is good training for their "idea muscles" to be able to use any word or concept to generate ideas. Then, if you can are able to do it with any word, then you can choose your favourite word and always use that. There is now a kind of tradition here to use "parrot" or "strawberry yogurt".

So here is the challenge: train yourself so that whenever you need an idea, all you need to do is to think of "strawberry yogurt"!


Thanks great article.


IS THERE ACTUALLY ANY RANDOM? ... or does the world instead conform to expectation and somehow to focus of attention.

The comments to this entry are closed.