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Jack's Notebook – excellent book on creative problem solving

September 6th, 2009

jacksnotebook Just finished reading Jack’s Notebook by Gregg Fraley.

Fraley is a Creativity and Innovation expert currently residing in the UK and he’s worked with companies and insitutions globally on creative problem solving over the past 20+ years. His blog is a regular read among the creative community.

“Novel” approach to teaching

Fraley’s really done something innovative with this book, that is remiscent of Who Moved My Cheese or The One Minute Manager, told in story format – but with a twist in this case.  The book takes the form of a novel, which makes it fun to follow along, using a combination of a hidden “love story” and story about how a start-up concept is born.  While it’s not exactly a high-tech startup, the creation of a graphic design shop is likely to hit a chord with many readers:  we’ve all dreamed at some point in our life about how nice it would be to own the home-town restaurant, boutique or graphic studio.  Maybe that’s small potatoes for some conquer-the-world types, but in this case it nicely illustrates the subject matter.

The true subject matter of the book is the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process, which was designed at SUNY Buffalo over 50 years ago, and has survived the test of time with many creative professional world-wide.  The book walks the reader through CPS by using the main characters and their problems/challenges to demostrate the process.  And, it does this several times by wrapping around various problem/solution themes throughout the book.  I like the positive spin that Fraley put on main characters too – they seem to lift from a “fog” in the early chapters (“what is my life really about”) to much greater clarity and purpose.

Is this stuff usable?

My own experience with CPS process goes back over 20 years – I was first introduced to it by my Dad – who was a highly-creative type that thought exposing his son to the annual “Creative Problem Solving Institute” (held by Creative Education Foundation) might be a good idea…so in 1976 I attended my first CPSI event and took the “SpringBoard” entry which coupled me with other newbies and walked us through the CPS process over 3 1/2 days in a group setting.  Since that time, I’ve used that process over and over in my life – like the time I had to launch a series of CD-ROM/software products for Apple, the brainstorming I led with the Yahoo original team, the approach re-branding our venture capital firm in 2002 and even last month the brainstorming I led at a senior team offsite with one of my clients, Les Concierges.  I’ve used the process on problems I encountered at Harvard Business School. And,  I’ve even used this stuff at home to figure out better ways of relating to my children.

Creative Problem Solving – step by step guide

Jack’s Notebook allows someone unfamiliar with the process of CPS to see it in practice, while enjoying some fun reading. Each chapters prologue highlights the key principles that will be included in that chapter, and the back of the book contains a layout of the entire CPS process, step-by-step…a great tool.jacksnotebook2

We’ll be reading, discussing Jack’s Notebook within my course at UC Berkeley (in fact, Gregg Fraley will be joining us via Skype from his home in UK on September 16), and students will be placed in teams and asked to use the CPS process on a specific life/business problem.  With a combination of Engineering and MBA students in the class, the outcome of this process should be VERY INTERESTING.  More on that in a future blog…