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An Idea Please, Bob


Conceptual Blockbusting by James L. Adams is subtitled A Guide to Better Ideas. It tackles the problem of lack of creativity by suggesting and categorising blockers and then proposing ways around them. I reviewed the book recently, and was left with bunch of quotes I enjoyed but didn't have space for. Here they are:

If the problem is not properly isolated it will not be properly solved. (p. 23)

In [Stream Analysis, Jerry Porras] claims that people, especially people in organizations, tend to work on getting rid of symptoms, rather than solving the real problems ... Not surprising, since core problems are more difficult to solve and their solution often creates greater controversy. But perhaps not what we would like to think. (p. 24)

The fear of making a mistake is,  of course, rooted in insecurity, which most people suffer from to some extent. Such insecurities are also responsible for [an] emotional block, the "Inability to tolerate ambiguity; overriding desire for order; 'no appetite for chaos.'" ... The solution of a complex problem is a messy process. Rigorous and logical techniques are often necessary, but not sufficient. (p. 48)

The "Preference for judging ideas, rather than generating them" is also the "safe" way to go. Judgement, criticism, tough-mindedness, and practicality are of course essential in problem-solving. However, if applied too early to too indiscriminately in the problem-solving process, they are extremely detrimental to conceptualization. (p. 48)

Another cultural block [is] "Problem-solving is a serious business and humor is our of place." [But] Arthur Koestler ... explained comic inspiration, for example, as stemming from "the interaction of two mutually exclusive associative contexts." As in creative artistic and scientific acts, two ideas have to be brought together that are not ordinarily combined. This is one of the essentials of creative thinking. (p. 61)

No matter how talented the problem-solver, frustration and detail work are inescapable in problem-solving. (p. 69)

Often the degree of difficulty induced by [the block of inadequate language skill, and reluctance to draw to help overcome it] is not even appreciated, since the describer knows exactly what he is trying to describe, and the the describee often naturally assumes that she understands exactly what the other person is describing. (p. 92)

List-making is one of the simplest, most direct methods of increasing your conceptual ability. (p. 133)


Many creativity "techniques" have to do with breaking our mental set — diverting us from accepting the answer that first occurs to us by making us develop and consider others. (p. 134)

If you cannot solve the proposed problem, try to solve first some related problem. Could you imagine a more accessible related problem? A more general problem? A more special problem? An analogous problem? Could you solve a part of the problem? (p. 142)

If you want people to think creatively [their time] should not be scheduled down to the minute. Environmental change must be tailored to the desired goal and level of creativity. (p. 146)

Some of the more important conceptual blocks that apply to groups are: ... poor leadership, ... lack of proper support. (p. 159)

Affiliation needs underlie many of the conceptual blocks discussed [in this book]. People will like you if you think the way they do. But to the extent you succeed in aligning your thoughts with those of others, you can add to your perceptual and intellectual blocks. (p. 166)

A major organizational problem is to properly balance creativity and control. (p. 176)
Images: BBC, Amazon

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