After a meeting last week, a client, Gregg Fraley, was kind enough to give me a copy of his latest book, Jack's Notebook. It has the curious subtitle: "A Business Novel about Creative Problem Solving." I've never heard this term "business novel" before--have you? I mean, I know that most business books I read are peppered with anecdotes and case studies, but... a business novel?
Well, it's sorta half and half. The first half of the book is indeed the story of a guy (Jack), who is stuck with two dead-end and low-paying jobs but who dreams of being a photographer. He meets Mannie, who takes him through a six-step process of structured brainstorming, checking feelings, reframing the problem, generating more ideas, finding solutions and taking action over several weeks and several meetings. That bit is pretty transparent, but hey, it's a helluva lot more interesting than reading about it in six chapters with titles like "Generating Solutions." And there is a cute little romance with the barista from the internet cafe where Jack does his research, which makes it more palatable as a novel.
Then the author did something really gutsy halfway through--just when you think the entire novel is about how this schmuck lived his dream to become a photographer, he throws in a secondary conflict, which ends up taking over the novel: the cute barista disappears, and Jack is roughed up by thugs who threaten worse if he keeps dating her. The second half of the novel is a wild, search-and-rescue adventure, and the kicker is that the mission is carried out by normal people by way of--you guessed it!--creative problem-solving. Actually, it's pretty riveting and a nice, non-boring way to showcase that particular type of process thinking. Doesn't have to be all business, does it? Why not throw a little rough and tumble in there, a la McGyver, huh? I mean, if that guy didn't approach problems creatively, who did? :-)
At any rate, I enjoyed the novel and enjoyed watching the characters approach their conflicts and problems this way. Hey, I might even have learned a thing or two. ;-)