Oblique Strategies

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Oblique Strategies (subtitled over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas) is a set of published cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt first published in 1975, and now in its fifth edition. Each card contains a phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma situation.


  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Honour the error as a hidden intention.

From the introduction to the 2001 edition:

These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear...

[edit] Pop culture references

Oblique Strategies was mentioned in the 1998 R.E.M. song "Diminished" off the album Up.

In the film Slacker, a character offers passers-by cards from an Oblique Strategies deck. Strategies mentioned are "Honor thy error as a hidden intention," "Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify," "Not building a wall; making a brick," "Repetition is a form of change," and the one which came to be seen as a summary of the film's ethos (though it was not part of the official set of Oblique Strategies), "Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy." (This line was quoted in R.E.M.'s song "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?")

Blixa Bargeld has a similar navigation system, called Dave.

All five editions are now available in Apple's iTunes Appstore, for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

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