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Conceptual Blockbusting

By James L. Adams

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2011 by Michael C. Gray

With the rapid rate of change these days, organizations must be agile or die. Businesses must constantly reinvent themselves and develop new products and product applications to attract new customers and sell more to existing customers. Organizations that are structured to discourage innovation are committing suicide.

Team members/employees of organizations must be encouraged to generate new ideas.

Our educational system seems to be designed to drive the creativity out of our children. As toddlers, creativity seems to come naturally. Give a child a broomstick and it becomes a horse, a baton, a scepter, a machine gun, Harry Potter's Nimbus 2000, etc. As children are educated, they learn they are rewarded for conforming, for "doing it the teacher's way," and for memorizing facts – not for creative ideas. The "mischievous trouble makers" who always seem to be in trouble are often the most creative!

So, as employees, people try to "fit in" and be "team players." They are afraid to take the risk of "offering a crazy idea." Ideas (conceptions) are blocked. In Conceptual Blockbusting, James Adams, a former professor at Stanford University, offers approaches to "busting" those "blocks" to generating ideas.

As I understand it, the book has been popular for years at technology companies in Silicon Valley. It was probably spread using "word of mouth" by Dr. Adams' former students.

Conceptual Blockbusting is a workbook. It includes many group exercises. I can see it being used as the basis for a company retreat or workshop, and as a textbook for a class as Dr. Adams probably did.

The challenge for a company trying to implement the ideas in the book is to maintain the momentum of encouraging innovation and avoid having employees kill it as "the bosses latest fad." Some companies have tried to institutionalize innovation with innovative divisions or "Skunkworks," such as Lockheed, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Apple Computer's product development teams, etc. Sadly, many of the excellent ideas generated by these divisions or innovative employees are rejected by the company's management, such as Xerox's rejection of the graphical interface developed at PARC and Hewlett Packard's rejection of Steve Wosniak's Apple computer. The opportunity to create an industry was missed and left for others to exploit.

The book includes a "Reader's Guide" with many more references relating to creativity and idea generation.

I enjoyed seeing alternative "solutions" to the "think outside the box" nine-dot puzzle.

I recommend that you buy, study, do the exercise, and adopt the techniques in Conceptual Blockbusting to keep your company or yourself from becoming a dinosaur.

Buy it on Amazon: Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas.

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