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This is the 25th anniversary edition of Adams
best-selling book that addresses the manner in which prejudices, blind spots,
and tunnel vision can be recognized, managed and overcome. The blocks in
question are those that hinder mental creativity or conceptualization or, as
Adams (13) says, mental walls that block the problem-solver from correctly
perceiving a problem or conceiving its solution. He provides four general
categories of blocks: perceptual (15), emotional (39), cultural/environmental
(57) and intellectual/expressive (77). Two chapters (97, 127) are devoted to
techniques suggested by Adams as useful in overcoming blocks. A penultimate
chapter (159) addresses conceptualization at work in groups and the final
chapter (175) examines creativity on an organizational level. Adams also
provides a detailed guide (201) to related books for further reading.
Mind-expanding exercises of varying difficulty are strewn throughout the book
to illustrate some of the ideas being discussed.
Adams is not a psychologist but a consultant and
academic in engineering and management whose experience has led him to
investigate conceptual blocks. His personable style renders the book a good
basic introduction to this psychological area, a book for the layperson. It is
written, however, very much as if Adams is presenting his hobby and it thus
reads like an extended list of bullet points: here is a list of blocks and
their sub-types, now here are some lists of ideas for sidestepping these
blocks, and (for the executives) heres some information on group thinking and
organizational creativity; liked what you read? heres a list of similar
books. As such, it easily slots into the self-help category or, at best, the
Edward De Bono genre.
This is not to belittle the book for Adams does
provide some genuinely interesting material, even if at times it is merely an
exposition of others work. A case in point is his discussion on morphological
analysis (136) that provides a simple but effective tool to break through
mental blocks. Another is his suggested use of (at times humorous) bug lists
(139) that may unveil a potential economic breakthrough. A more attentive
reader may also find useful material for negotiation strategy in Adams
discussion on groups, simply by substituting the term creativity by
negotiation. Furthermore, Adams discussion of stereotyping (19) and his
provision of a simple example involving three tiers of complexes recalls the
three levels of intentional development espoused by phenomenology when faced
with complexes, leading to what is known as phenomenological eidetic
intuition. It also recalls the manner in which system theory describes the
constitution of complexes as summative, special and systemic. Although Adams
does not refer to such theories, here - as elsewhere in the book - his
arguments and examples are defensible against a certain degree of criticism due
to the manner in which they can be seen as relating to the wider literature. As
such, the rich mixture of material, even if some of it, as Adams (viii) notes,
is based upon unproven theory, conjecture, and non-scientific observation,
does allow the reader to think through some of the ideas as they may apply to
particular situations or needs Adams (viii) describes his work as a think
It is not Adams mission to minimize the relevance
of conceptual blocks in human activity and he is quick to stress in his preface
(x) that although
they restrict our abilities to solve our problems in
original and more effective ways, without them we would be less stable and
predictable and perhaps less efficient at routine living. Our brains would be
forced to process more information and our behavior might be more bothersome to
those around us.
much of his research is presented in a superficial manner probably to attract
as wide a readership as possible it spans far and wide: from discussions on
Freud, the humanistic psychologists, and Maslow, to corporate growth phases,
intercontinental corporate norms for innovation, and even a brief, disarming
note on the Cornell Architectural Departments (often out of print) The
Bathroom - an analysis and critique
of the bathrooms encountered in the western world! With such diversity, Adams
provides an ideal mixture of think along entertainment and learning.
Managers, executives and other professionals will find the material useful,
even if it risks being treated as yet another guru book. For psychologists
and philosophers it will either provide mild amusement or indifference.
2002 Ion Georgiou
is Visiting Professor at the Universidade Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia,
Brazil, and Senior Lecturer at Kingston University, England, having also taught
and undertaken research at the London School of Economics. His main interests
are Ludwig von Bertalanffy's General System Theory, Phenomenology, in particular
the philosophies of Husserl and Sartre, Management Methods and Problem
Structuring Methods. Fluent in five languages, he has consulted on commercial
and academically-linked public projects across Europe and Brazil and has taught
at universities in Russia and Spain.
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