jump to navigation

Cracking a stuck brain – oblique strategies 23 April, 2008

Posted by Jay Ball in creativity.

You know how it is, sometimes when you’re trying to come up with ideas you get stuck. Just plain old-fashioned stuck. Everything you think of comes back to the same worthless thought you had an hour ago. You can see only one route to a solution and frankly it’s heading nowhere. And, of course, the deadline isn’t getting any further away.

While I cover a couple of ways out in Cracked, there’s a really useful one that wouldn’t fit in: oblique strategies. Originally oblique strategies was a card deck created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt to help jog the mind when the fog of work pressure descended (details here).


It consists of over 100 cards (or as the deck terms it “Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas”) and the idea is that when you get stuck you pick a card at random and consider your problem in light of what it says. And they are oblique. So flipping my own deck at random gives me, “Go to an extreme, come part way back.” Now of course, if you are stuck that might be just the help you are looking for. What is the extreme consequences of the problem? What would be an extreme solution? How far back would we need to come to create a workable answer? Work that train of thought until it goes no further and then select another card.

While there are a few such creativity decks around, for me oblique strategies works because it doesn’t try to solve the problem for you. It still gives you room to think. And it can take you off in unexpected and useful directions.

You can still buy the physical deck (it comes in a lovely understated black box) and costs £30. But you can also download it free as a widget for Mac, PC and Linux.



1. Lead Research » 24 April - Dunnhumb snubbing POPAI - 24 April, 2008

[…] Vans as part of their campaign in a YouTube video… view >    SEGD May 28-31   Austin, TX Cracking a stuck brain – oblique strategies   Transitions Kiosks win the Silver POPAI award.   Acquire Drives Giant Interactive Airport […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: