Roger Von Oech has made a career of creative innovation basically since 1975 when he earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University in the self-created interdisciplinary program “History of Ideas.” In the 1980s, he created and produced the “Innovation in Industry” conference series in Palo Alto, which included Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Charles Schwab, among many other business leaders. I first learned of him about that time through his books, A Whack on the Side of the Head, and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, and his creative card packs that draw on those ideas. I have used the ideas often in staff development and will someday write about why you should add them to you toolkit.
But for me, his award-winning Ball of Whacks – which carries on his tradition of choosing violent names for his products – is an example of his logical left brain thinking. Although it’s described on his website as a “creative thinking workshop in a ball,” the fact that it is accompanied by both a “96-page creativity guidebook” and a video of some of the shapes it can be made into, proves that its possibilities are not obvious. Instead, the 30 magnetic design blocks that can be taken apart and rearranged in endless ways, was painstakingly developed (and patented).
I agree absolutely that it can stimulate creativity (especially when given a jump start by trying to recreate some of the designs in the guidebook), but its appeal is first to those who enjoy the logic of solving a puzzle – or several dozen puzzles in one. Plus, it is an individual tool rather than one that is easily shared. You can use it in a group setting, but everyone is likely to want his or her own ball rather than just a portion of the puzzle.
You can learn more about Roger Von Oech’s company at http://creativethink.com/and purchase his products at http://creativewhack.com/home.php. As always, you can purchase his products for less on Amazon. Here is the link to the red Ball of Whacks. (It also comes in blue, black and multi-colors.)
Source of biographical info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_von_Oech