I’m kind of a quirky guy. I don’t like reading fiction. Now, as a “Right-Brainer” you’d expect me to really dig fiction. But for the longest time, my Barnes & Noble receipts have been filled with non-fiction. Most of the time, my reading list looks like some research junkie’s to-do list.
So, when I was chosen to join this week’s Post 2 Post Book Tour for Gregg Fraley‘s novel, “Jack’s Notebook,” I jumped at the chance. I was craving something “out of the norm.” And “Jack’s Notebook” is definitely not “IN the norm” for a CPS process book. “Jack’s Notebook” isn’t a DIY book. It’s not a traditional academic book. It’s not anything I’d ever have chosen to read (on my own). But on the cover I read “A Business Novel About Creative Problem Solving” so I was in. And after the first three pages, I realized that Jack, the main character, was generally me about five years ago… BOOM! I was hooked.
Personal similarities aside, Gregg Fraley builds a great story about Jack and Molly – two lost souls looking to improve their lot in life, but seeming to miss “The Big Picture.” Enter Manny – a sage, motivational guide that, after a chance meeting, pulls Jack through the six stages of creative problem solving techniques – all documented in Jack’s notebook.
Through an intriguing plot of romance, risk, difficulties, and not-so-perfect second chances, Fraley mixes his masterful teaching of the creative problem solving (CPS) process. From a truly unique perspective, Fraley gives us a novel outlining a complex process while proving that such processes can be learned and remembered through good, intriguing plot and narrative. And not only does he show that the CPS process is effective and easy to understand in business applications, but just as easily applied to any level of personal challenges – from basic to life-altering.
From page one, we’re allowed, without rote academia and monologues, to follow Manny, Jack, and Molly through the steps of the CPS process to an exciting and rewarding (albeit creative) conclusion. And as a bonus for us “just show me the map” readers, the process and notes are masterfully summarized at the end of the book. But don’t skip forward! The story is what gets you there.
Brand Chef(BC): What was your decision to create a novel based on the CPS process over a more traditional academic / case-study approach?
Gregg Fraley(GF): I decided to write a novel to teach CPS because I felt it was more involving and engaging than the typical business book or academic/case-study book. I have been impressed by the work of both Eli Goldratt, who wrote The Goal, and Patrick Lencioni who have pioneered the idea of business fiction. There books had me learning and I thought it was the ideal vehicle for CPS.
Also, there are some people who never buy dry business books. I was trying to reach people with this book who need the concepts of creative thinking who would not buy a business book but might buy a good story.
BC: How much of the novel is based on yourself or real situations / characters you’ve worked with? Do you have any examples you could site?
GF: It is not autobiographical exactly but it does draw on many experiences I’ve had in my life. For instance, I was once a budding photographer, and, I had many lousy jobs! In a sense I am both the main character Jack and the mentor character Manny, the professional problem solver. I’ve played both roles in real life. On the other hand I’ve never been involved in a kidnapping, never rode a horse, never broken into a ranch estate, and never staged explosive diversions. Clearly, this is a work of fiction!
BC: Have you found that, with advancements in technology (e.g. – online documentation, project development software, etc.) the note-taking stages for CPS have changed?
GF: How one does CPS has indeed changed over the years. Believe it or not, Post-its were at one point a major advancement! Having said that, realize that CPS is a problem solving “model”. It’s not prescriptive in terms of the tools you use to implement it. So, any stage could be done with paper and pencil, or, with an advanced software tool. I’ve done complete CPS cycles in the virtual world using tools like WebIQ.net, but it could be done with simpler tools, like email. I think the kind of “ideation” one does virtually versus the kind you might do in person is different — and they are both valuable and good. The ideal situation is to use both over a time period that allows incubation. For instance you could assign tasks to innovation teams members via email, get them started, and then collect their responses in preparation for an on-site intensive to complete a problem solving session. Why not use the best of both worlds?
BC: How, from a business mindset vs. a creative mindset (left brain vs. right brain) do you treat the CPS process differently? Do you find one group more capable or does it create more of a challenge for either?
GF: The thing is I don’t see a difference between a business mindset and a creative mindset. Business people have to be creative everyday, they face huge challenges, and the best business people have a creative mindset.
Creativity is more than self-expression, it is that, but it’s also problem solving and decision making. Business people are very in touch with problem solving and decision making, and stereotypically less so with self-expression.
There is a common myth that goes something like this: there are creative people and non-creative people. Creative people are artistic and right brained. By contrast business people are left brained and uncreative. In reality this is a myth that defines creativity too narrowly. Every human being has creative potential and it is their choice to use it and develop it or not.
To answer your question more directly, business people tend to take to a structured process like CPS because it gives them a way to use their creativity, it’s a “how to.” Creative artists, who are more familiar with creative process, sometimes find it too confining. There usual process is more organic and less structured. Some traditional creatives find CPS is helpful because it gives them something to fall back on to restart their organic creative process. I also find that traditional creatives can be very good at parts of CPS. For instance, improv actors are very good at the ideation phase of CPS – it’s what they’ve trained themselves to do.
GF: I do, there is a sequel in the works.
BC: Ultimately, what did / do you hope to accomplish with this novel?
GF: I had hoped that I might reach a whole new group of people and empower them with a “technology” that has been a corporate secret for over 50 years. I think I’ve done that, and, it keeps getting better. My hope is that it continues to build and like Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way, it eventually becomes a best seller.
What’s happening with this book is it’s slowly being recognized as a deceptively effective way to engage people on the subject of creative thinking. I’ve had readers send me notes saying that they’d read all sorts of books on creativity and innovation and mine is the first one that has them actually doing something different. One man sent me a note and said two weeks after reading it he’s quit his job and started his own business, and he said it was a direct result of writing down ideas everyday in a notebook. A woman wrote me a few days ago and said she had a whole new relationship with the idea of problem framing, and that it was leading her to breakthrough’s in several areas of her life. A man in Massachustes who heads up a non profit to prevent teenage suicide has made the book a requirement for new staff, as he feels it provides them with a great tool for the challenges they face, and a common language to dialog those challenges. Several corporations are buying multiple copies of the book and making it required reading. Those are usually in innovation departments, but also I’ve seen bulk orders from design firms, and high schools.
With that, I highly recommend “Jack’s Notebook” by Gregg Fraley. It’s a beautiful departure from statistics and case studies! And for those of you “stuck” in a challenge, this book shows you that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel… or should I say a brighter page at the end of the notebook?
Thank you Gregg for your time and the wonderful book! I look forward to the sequel.
Order your copy of “Jack’s Notebook” today.
A Business Novel About Creative Problem Solving
By: Gregg Fraley
Published: Feb 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 242pp
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Inc