“Jack’s Notebook: a Business Novel about Creative Problem Solving,” Gregg Fraley (Nelson-Business $22.99)
Business novels are strange creatures–neither fish nor fowl. They attempt to explain complicated concepts via a fictional vehicle.
Melding fiction and nonfiction is a difficult task. A task Creative Problem Solving(CPS) facilitator Gregg Fraley accomplishes in his well written mystery, “Jack’s Notebook.”
Jack Huber is the classic underachiever. And he knows it. He has the glimmer of a dream. Jack wishes to become a full-time professional photographer–of some kind. He’s tired of working two part time unsatisfying jobs to subsist. Like many of us in his shoes he knows the “what” he wants to accomplish but not the “how.”
Serendipity, when we recognize it, often plays a large part in our lives. Jack Huber was fortunate to be offered a ride, on a cold rainy Chicago night, by a charismatic stranger, Manny Gibran, a renown innovation expert. Manny gives Jack a blank notebook–which becomes, not surprisingly, “Jack’s Notebook“–and a very basic introduction to CPS. He shows Jack how to use innovative methods to solve problems.
While trying to identify and explore (research) his challenge Jack meets a girl in an internet coffee shop.
Molly Dunne is attractive, wary and, as Jack soon discovers, enigmatic. A wraith-like mystery follows her. Ever present but rarely visible.
Before long Jack and Molly become friends. Jack hopes for more.
In the meantime Jack does some photography for Manny and learns more about applying CPS and innovation to his situation.
Molly and Jack become aware of their mutual attraction and then Molly disappears. Now you have a real mystery to solve. After all, this is a mystery novel.
“Jack’s Notebook” has every element of a good mystery: Missing pretty girl, intrigue, romance, bad guys, guns, a beating, explosions, threats and a very interesting surprise twist…
Perhaps the greatest challenge Fraley faced was how to integrate CPS lessons into a novel without making the whole much less than the sum of the parts. He took an approach sometimes seen in much older books. Each chapter is prefaced with a paragraph that briefly explains the CPS technique Jack will employ.
While it’s impossible to teach all there is about a subject in the “business novel” genre or perhaps “sub-genre” this book provides more than an overview. It gives you more than enough knowledge to begin using CPS techniques for your ultimate benefit.
Using the process as taught will enable you to use Challenge Triage to identify, explore, generate ideas and ultimately develop and deploy the solution to almost any problem with a logical resolution.
Critical to using Creative Problem Solving is recording everything in a notebook. Pages from “Jack’s Notebook” are used as illustrations throughout. This brings me to one of my two, fairly minor, gripes about the book. The notebook Manny gave Jack to record his problem solving process was described as a, “…simple spiral sketchbook with blank pages, no lines.”, yet the notebook graphics depict a lined spiral notebook–not that Jack sticks to the lines.
Minor gripe no. 2: On several pages Johnson boxes are used to draw attention to or further explain critical pieces of dialog. For example this excerpt from page 135: “The voice of self doubt… this is how you’re supposed to feel when you step off into the unknown.” The physical placement of the boxes on the page is inconsistent. Sometimes above and at other times below the text it’s clarifying. There may have been valid reasons for this, but to me they’re not apparent. So much for the minor gripes.
Have you ever carried a notebook or notepad until the edges of the pages became worn, fluffy and fibrous from use? The first page of each chapter is printed to resemble a well used notebook. It’s a neat touch that subtly reinforces the point that using notebooks and recording your ideas and thoughts are essential elements of problem solving.
Fraley’s penultimate section of the book is a concise description of the CPS process. Titled “CPS Quick Reference Guide” it provides flow charts and a comprehensive matrix of the CPS steps. The final piece is the Action Plan Jack used to move from walking in the rain to…
If you’re looking for a good, instructive read for yourself or for a gift I highly recommend “Jack’s Notebook.”