Ball of Whacks

Scoble Awaits iPhone, Plays with Ball of Whacks

Carnival atmosphere at the Palo Alto Apple store. Eminent blogger Robert Scoble (April profile) and his 13 year old son Patrick arrived early Thursday morning to be the first and second in line to get their hands on a new iPhone.

When I took this photo Thursday afternoon, there were about 20 or so people camping out. As you can see, the young ladies behind Scoble are really pumped up.


While he's waiting to get his hands on an iPhone, Scoble got his hands on the new Blue Ball of Whacks. The Ball of Whacks brought a big smile to his face (and should give him something to play with tonight as he sleeps in front of the store).

Lots of buzz. Local entrepreneurs and VCs. Zooomr TV was there, and CNBC will be there later. I got to spend 2 minutes telling their audience about the Ball of Whacks. Does the iPhone's Halo extend that far? Lots of fun!

What Brings a Twinkle to an Author's Eye

If you've ever written a book or created a new product, you know what a wonderful feeling it is to see your book (or product) in stores. The corollary is also true: if you can't find your product in stores, it's a frustrating experience.

My most recent product is the Ball of Whacks. It has been selling well, and people seem to enjoy playing with it. I was in New York recently and visited several high-profile stores that carry it. What joy!

The first was the Museum of Modern Art Design Store. Here is a shot showing its display. It's even got one of those little signs (off to the right) that treat it like a work of art: "Ball of Whacks. Roger von Oech. 2006." Real classy!


I got a photo of the store manager and asst. manager happily holding the Ball. They said that it sells well there.


I then walked up the street to the flagship FAO Schwarz store at 58th and 5th (right next to the new Apple store). Just as you walk in the door on the right is a big corner display with about 50 Balls of Whacks waiting to find new homes. Here's a customer taking a look. Often FAO has a person giving live product demonstrations, and I'm told that does wonders for sales.


Ball of Whacks Update

I'd like to thank all of you who have written to me about the Ball of Whacks. I appreciate your very nice comments. I'm glad you're having fun using it to stimulate your creativity!


I thought I'd take a few moments and let you know how the product is doing. As readers of this blog know, I spent about a year-and-a-half developing it (designing it, prototyping it, engineering it, going to China to manufacture it, etc.)

Finally in late September, 2006 my first run arrived in the United States. I got good word of mouth on the Blogosphere starting in October and that pushed sales. Plus, my partner Stuart Kaplan was able to get it into a number of stores including FAO Schwarz and many museum and other retail stores. It also did well in the online arena, for example and our own e-commerce store (you can see a fun 1 minute BOW video there).



We sold out the initial run in early December (sigh! just before Christmas). Toward the end of October, I doubled my second order from my Chinese manufacturer. And these are just arriving now.

The Ball of Whacks is really a product for 2007. Our first big marketing show is "Toy Fair" in New York the second week of February. We hope to generate a lot of interest and . . . sales! (Wish us luck!)

I've thanked many of the bloggers who wrote about it (here and here). But one person I haven't acknowledged yet in this blog is Glenn Reynolds who gave it several mentions (here and here) in his Instapundit blog. Thanks for the "Instalanche, Glenn!"

Charlie Yo-Yo Demonstrates the Ball of Whacks at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan

Remember that scene in the 1988 film "Big" in which the Tom Hanks character dances with the store manager on the big floor piano at FAO Schwarz? If you don't, here it is. [It's 2 minutes long, but all you need to watch is about 20 seconds.]

I've always wondered what it would be like to work at FAO Schwarz and demonstrate products for the "guests."

And then — completely out of the blue! — I got this email several days ago from someone named "Charlie Yo-Yo."

Greetings Roger!

My name is Charlie, and I'm one of the people demonstrating the Ball of Whacks at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan. I've been having a lot of fun with it.

So, being quite intimate with the Ball of Whacks as I am, I thought I would introduce myself to you, because I feel like we're already friends in a way.

Here's an example of how my pitch goes: I have it in my hand, in one kind of configuration or another, and I'm standing near the boxed products.

"Hi!  I'm playing with a Ball of Whacks  — It's a brand new designer toy, it was made by a guy named Roger von Oech, who is an expert in creative thinking."


I'll then make a piece of hand candy out of two whacks.  I then put it in the guest's hand.

"See, doesn't it feel nice in your hand?"

About now, the guest will ask how do you play with it . . . .

"There's really no one way to play with it, it's a very open ended toy - it comes with this book by the designer, it's a really great book, [I flip through some pages] you see he gives lots of ideas about how to configure it and play with it, some exercises and games you can play with it. 


Most importantly, though, he explains how just playing with a toy like this, just goofing around with it, can exercise your brain.  It gets the neurons firing in your head.  This can be very useful when it comes to things like solving problems.  Quite often, when I play with this toy, I find it leads me in directions I didn't think I would go.  This kind of activity can be quite useful for solving problems in other areas of your life. "

In fact, if you or someone you know, has to do a lot of problem solving, this would make a great gift.  For an engineer, or a creative executive, artists, college students.  It looks nice, just the way it looks makes you want to hold it in your hand, and it feels nice in your hand too.  It's a great piece of hand candy."

Congratulations, I think it's a great product. You might be interested in knowing that at one point last week, a six year old boy was very attracted to the Ball of Whacks.  At first I was a bit cautious, because I know it is recommended for eight and up.  This boy took to it and understood it right away.  I was amazed to see him assemble something best described as a "standing star," sorta like a star with three legs.  It was something I didn't see in your book, and something I hadn't thought of making myself.  It was very impressive.  The boy's dad was impressed as well, and it resulted in a sale.

Oh, and by the way, I'm a professional yo-yo player, and normally that is what I demo for FAO.  My manager thought I would be a good fit for your product, and that's what I'm doing when we're sold out of yo-yos!

Best wishes to you,


Many thanks Charlie! I appreciate your "hands on" efforts.

So how does one become a professional demonstrator? I followed up with Charlie, and asked him for his background. And this is what he said:

My background . . . educationally I studied art.  BFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  But most of my career has been in toys. I've worked in almost every aspect of the toy business - demonstrating, marketing and product development, and most importantly, sales (where you make your money). 

Currently I work part time at FAO as a demonstrator, but during the week I am a sales rep for about twenty different off-brand Chinese manufacturers. In the meantime though, as I said, I am a professional yo-yo player, I've worked for a few different yo-yo companies - this is what I look like in action:


Question for readers: What product demonstration experiences can you share?

Ball of Whacks Thanks

Our e-commerce store, Creative Whack, is open for business. Check it out — especially if you're interested in taking a closer look at — and perhaps purchasing— the Ball of Whacks. There's a fun 1 minute video you can see about the BOW, as well.

Postrel1       Postrel2


I'd like to thank the following people who have recently written some very kind things about the Ball of Whacks.  They are:

Author, columnist Virginia Postrel at the Dynamist  (the above photos are from Virginia; they were made at the Postrel household). Virginia called the Ball of Whacks "really fun," and said "it would make a great present."

MIT Professor John Maeda in The Laws of Simplicity. John says that the Ball of Whacks is "easy to take apart, feels good, and creates a quick emotional bond."

Corporate branding expert Jennifer Goff at Brains on Fire. She said that she and the Brains on Fire team "can't keep our hands off it. Thanks!"

Mobile media space mogul Andy Nulman at Pow! Right Between the Eyes. Andy says that playing with it "has become so addictive," but that he's "coming up with more good 'n' creative ideas" so everything's okay.

Canadian marketing wizard Colin McKay in Canuckflack. He says, "When I have the Ball at my desk, everyone — I mean everyone — who stops by plays with it. And when I took it home, my three kids fought to play with it."

Wunderkind designer and trend-spotter Josh Spear in Josh Spear. Josh says, "Take a peak at the video — how fun!"

Direct sales entrepreneur Marc Accetta in Marc Accetta. Marc says the Ball is "Perfect."

Media producer Steve Hardy in Creative Generalist. Steve says the Ball of Whacks has been "an irresistable tinker toy that draws visitors in for a couple of minutes to first figure it out and then to reconstruct it in some unusual structure."

And, finally, Ethernet inventor and venture capitalist Bob Metcalfe. Bob was kind enough to say, "Beauty drives creativity, and the Ball of Whacks is gorgeous!"

Thanks to all of you for your very kind words.

Here is multimedia designer Dave Strong's favorite Ball of Whacks construction:


Breakfast With Guy Kawasaki

On Tuesday, I had breakfast with best-selling author ("Art of the Start") and venture capitalist  Guy Kawasaki at the Stanford Park Hotel in Menlo Park, California. It was a delightful: Guy is quite affable and down to earth.

Surprisingly, this was the first time we had ever met each other. This is especially curious when you consider that we were both at Stanford in the early and mid 70s, we both live in Atherton (less than a mile apart!), and we have both written books and done a lot of public speaking.

[Below] Here's a photo of Guy having fun by giving me "A Whack on the Side of the Head" with the amazing Ball of Whacks.


Anyway, it was fun sharing stories with him about various clients, venture capitalists, speakers bureaus, publishers, personal sports (swimming for me, hockey for him), and balancing family life with being on the road. There are not many people who have had a lot of the same professional life experiences — and so it was really interesting to hear how he's managed his affairs and kept his priorities straight.

I especially enjoyed hearing about Guy's possible future projects. Exciting stuff!

Thanks for picking up the check, Guy!

Offbeat Ball of Whacks Promos

Whack_pcshakespeare1_1 We'll be exhibiting the Ball of Whacks later in the week at a major trade show in New York. For fun, we had the noted illustrator Jody Boginski paint some pictures of the Ball of Whacks in some offbeat situations. These were then turned into handout promo cards for the product. (Click on the pictures to see larger versions.)

I think they're a kick!

Technorati Tags: Creativity, Ball of Whacks



Doing A "T.O." in Dallas

Rogergoalpost2 Earlier this week in Dallas, I did a session for Frito/Lay (as part of EggStrategy's week long event for FL's Innovation Team) at a luxury suite at Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

It was a lot of fun. The place still had a game buzz: the Cowboys had defeated the Houston Texans the day before. Some of the breakouts were in the locker rooms (yes, the Cowboys' locker was much nicer than the visitor's locker room, and yes, both still smelled).  There were signs from the NFL Commissioner warning against betting, and for proper game attire.

Rogeronstar2 Afterwards, I went on to the field. What a kick! It's a "crowned" field (rises in the center and slopes off at the side lines). And, of course, I had to do a "T.O" (Terrell Owens), that is, stand on the Cowboy Star at mid-field with my trusty Ball of Whacks (turned into a Star shape for the occasion). It was a kick looking up through the top (the place "where God looks in").

Over the years, I've worked some unusual seminar venues (e.g., abandoned lighthouses and parking garages), but this was one near the top of the "more unusual." I know the participants enjoyed the locale. (Photo credits: Nick Kapke)

Technorati Tags: Creativity, Ball of Whacks

Appearing At Keplers

Img_5148 Today I did an author event for the Ball of Whacks at that great institution -- Keplers bookstore in Menlo Park (CA). Keplers is a storied place and one of the world's great independent bookstores. It's been a few years since I promoted a product in a bookstore (last time around was 2002 for Expect the Unexpected). I had forgotten how nice it is to meet with real customers and hear their questions and then answer them. Even nicer is to watch the customers play with the Ball of Whacks and then -- gasp! -- go to the cashier and buy it. It makes an author's heart go "pitter-patter." It was a fun event!

Img_5153_1 Here I am with store owner (and book world legend) Clark Kepler. Clark says, "By all means check it out." Back in 1982, when I had just self-published "A Whack on the Side of the Head," Clark bought the book from me making Keplers the first bookstore to carry it. (Three months later, I did a deal with Warner Books for them to publish Whack.)

Technorati Tags: Creativity, Ball of Whacks