There's a new concept arising for business books - books that are entertaining, easy to read and leave you with a much better understanding of a methodology or concept. Patrick Lencioni is probably the recognized leader of this genre. I'd call it the business novel. Authors using this approach mix theory and methodology with a character driven plot.
Leoncini has written several books to examine how teams work together and how to improve meetings using this approach, and I've reviewed the book Follow the Other Hand
, in which Andy Cohen uses a magician as the deus ex machina to drive insights for a business owner. Gregg Fraley, a consultant in the innovation space, has just completed a book about innovation focused on the Creative Problem Solving process called Jack's Notebook
Fraley has several purposes in mind for the book. First, he wants to communicate the methodology and power of the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) technique. If you don't know, Creative Problem Solving was developed by Alex Osborn, who is considered the "father" of brainstorming. You can learn more about CPS and other concepts related to it at the Creative Education Foundation
. Second, he is interested in reaching small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them become more adept at problem solving and innovation, so his book is not targeted at the traditional mid-level manager in a large business, although there are topics within the book that are applicable to anyone in business. Finally, Fraley wanted to write a book that would capture the reader's attention, not to become a dry, coffee table book that you "should" have but never read.
Jack's Notebook is a story about a down on his luck guy named Jack who meets a consultant who is an expert in the CPS approach. Jack learns how to think differently about his life and the possibilities to create a new business. Jack also meets a lovely young woman who becomes his girlfriend and who mysteriously disappears. Jack uses the CPS approach and partners with the consultant to solve the mystery and create a new business. That's the simple, one paragraph overview.
Fraley does a good job of introducing the CPS concepts and methodology and interspersing it with the story as it unfolds. The book moves very quickly and has a fairly thin plot, since it is trying to accomplish two goals at once - educate you on CPS and keep the story moving. Towards the end of the novel some of the CPS threads are lost, as the hero is trying to recover his girlfriend. At the end of the book there's a good, short overview of CPS and how it works.
Jack's Notebook is a quick read and does a good job introducing the reader to critical problem solving skills. As I've noted, the plot can be a little thin, and a reader who approaches this book with the traditional "business book" mentality may find that the stories and the examples don't reflect life in the cube farm. Most of the action happens in a coffee shop or in other outside locales and focuses on the efforts to start up a photography business, so there's not a lot of insight into corporate creativity or problem solving. However, a lot of the concepts discussed are applicable to anyone at any level.
If you know someone who wants to be more creative, or who is seeking more ideas or a new process to solve problems or generate ideas, buy Jack's Notebook for them. It is a good read and a great introduction to a very sophisticated but simple process.