Roger von Oech

Creative Think

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Paul (from Idea Sandbox)

Roger - these are great... While these are great questions for creative problem solving... I'm having trouble thinking of a subject these do NOT apply to... Thank you for sharing.

Gavin Heaton

I am also a fan of an immediate response to a problem. Think on it quickly and then WRITE down your initial thoughts and then put them away. Leave your mind to its own devices.

Later, if you are having problems with your solution, return to your scrap of paper. I am often surprised at the quality of my initial response and the way in which it has informed a more considered approach.

Liz Strauss

Okay, Roger,
You caught my attention.
1. Move the venue -- walk around the block to Starbucks while taliking through problem. Keep changing the scenery as you work on it.

2. How would a mathemtician, a gymnast, a wordsmith, an engineer, an 8-year-old approach it?

3. Is this problem the cause or a symptom?

4. How many solutions are there?

5. Which part of the problem is most troublesome? Which is just an irritant?

6. What is the inherent reward in the problem that leads us to let it exist in the first place?

Innovation Zen

Nice points. The one that I use most is:

4. The second assault on the same problem should come from a totally different direction.

I also like to ask 5 whys: why? why? why? why? and why? After you answer 5 in a row chances you gained some new insights are high.

ann michael

Great list. Personally, I like #10 the best.

10. If you don't ask "Why this?" often enough, someone else will ask, "Why you?"

The reverse of this is also true. when you approach everything as viable and exciting you can quickly be responsible (accountable) for all of it!!!


Roger these, Roger. They're great. A few other folks that I've stolen insight from are Bruce Mau and Mark Oldach. Not all are idea starters, some are just truisms.

Mau wrote a treatise called "An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth" and a few of my favs are:

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea -- I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

... and my favorite:

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

For more, visit

And Mark Oldach wrote a book "Creativity for Graphic Designers which has been my bible for brainstorming and client service. It's an ugly jacket, but the content is invaluable and it's full of quotes and idea starters. My favorite idea is paraphrased as, "Gather all the facts, and then stop and get away (walk or bike, smoke break, whatever) to allow the problem to marinate. Your subconscious will work on the problem for you." Most, if not all, of my ideas come outside the 9-5 window which is why I always carry a sketchbook everywhere, even on vacation.

And lastly, here are few original thoughts...

1. Art is masturbation, design is prostitution. Remember your getting paid to satisfy the needs of others.

2. Design is method acting. Get inside the head of your audience it's easier to hear what they're really saying.

3. No bullshit! Be honest & use simple language with your clients, employees, coworkers & audience on, timelines, feedback, problems, etc. If you have a solid offering & tell an honest story, people will respond.

tz ; )=


Great words of advice, both from you Roger and the other commenters. I don't know if I have any more rules of thumb to add to this growing list, but I do have validation for some of them - I always seem to have my best ideas, and find that I can think more fluidly, when I'm in the shower!

Jason Oke

Amazing list. Thanks for sharing, Roger.

Mark McGuinness

Question everything - but don't forget to listen to the answers.

Caitlin Caldwell

I love the rules of THUMBS. This week I've wondered deeply about this whole thing called ArtCars... People generally seem so totally opposed; is that because they are not utlizing their opposable thumbs in driving and decorating their own cars?

Roger von Oech

Hey, Thanks to all of you who have commented so far on this post. A lot of food for thought. A lot of good problem solving strategies.

Paul McEnany

Roger- this one's brilliant. And, as usual, timely, too.

You're blogs kicking some ass, by the way. Good stuff!


Hi Roger,

Outstanding list. This is my first visit on your blog & already I want to read more.

I agree with Ann, my personal fav is # 10. Just fantastic!!!

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