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Obvious Adams & the Five Tests of Obviousness

by Rick Baker
On Sep 8, 2010
Obvious Adams’ is a curious little book, roughly 6,000 words placed on 50 pages. The book, first published by Robert R. Updegraff in 1916, can be read in a lunch hour…or quick readers can finish it in a coffee break.
It is the story of a successful business fellow – Obvious Adams – who is able to see through the fog of the details around problems and find excellent solutions in the obvious. Obvious Adams sees the obvious while others do not.
The little book is a great introduction to marketing and problem solving.
This book has much to do with the little philosophies I call Seeking Simple and P=2S+O
I will write more about Obvious Adams, Seeking Simple, and Making It Stick in the near future.
Today, I am introducing more of Updegraff’s thinking…
In 1953, almost 40 years after he first published ‘Obvious Adams’, Updegraff added a section describing the “Five Tests of Obviousness”.
Updegraff’s Five Tests of Obviousness

Test One: The problem when solved will be simple. The obvious is nearly always simple--so simple that sometimes a whole generation of men and women have looked at it without even seeing it.

Test Two: Does it check with human nature? If you feel comfortable in explaining your idea or plan to your mother, wife, relative, neighbours, your barber and anyone else you know, it's obvious. If you don't feel comfortable, it probably is not obvious.

Test Three: Put it on paper. Write out your idea, plan or project in words of one or two syllables, as though you were explaining it to a child. If you can't do this in two or three short paragraphs and the explanation becomes long, involved or ingenious--then very likely it is not obvious.

Test Four: Does it explode in people's minds? If, when you have presented your plan, project or program, do people say, "Now why didn't we think of that before?" You can feel encouraged. Obvious ideas are very apt to produce this "explosive" mental reaction.

Test Five: Is the time ripe? Many ideas and plans are obvious in themselves, but just as obviously "out of time." Checking time lines is often just as important as checking the idea or plan itself.
PS: I am fortunate to own an original printing of Obvious Adams, complete with a touching hand-written father-to-son note that reads”
A tip here, boy, towards Success.


Family Business and CFFB | Father-to-Son Lessons | Seeking Simple! | Solutions & Opportunities

Comments (2) -

2/12/2012 6:59:01 PM #

"Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has."

Rene Descartes
French Philosopher & Mathematician, (1596-1650)

rick baker
12/2/2014 9:52:36 PM #

"No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious."

George Bernard Shaw

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