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Table of Contents

Review of Books on Green Buildings – Part 15


Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas

(by James L. Adams)

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Introduction


  1. Habitual thinking – refraining from thinking about the problem
  2. Solutions to problems that actually do not exist
  3. The three primary types of thinking
  4. Exploring various forms of conceptual blocks


In this book, the author attempted to identify various factors that restrain people from creative and effective thinking. It also provides tools and processes that help people achieve higher levels of thinking. Some of the creative blocks used by the author include: perceptual blocks, emotional blocks, cultural blocks, environmental blocks, intellectual blocks and expressive blocks. By identifying these blocks, he hoped to help people destroy the barriers which prevent people from abstract, critical and analytic thinking.

Creative thinking blocks are the mental walls which hinder the thinker to solve problems. The four main mental blocks are: perceptual, emotional, cultural, and environmental blocks. Perceptual blocks hinder the thinker to clearly understand the problem or the data required to solve the problem. An example of this perceptual block is the stereotyping.

Another mental block which Adams identified is the inability to isolate a certain problem. If a problem cannot be isolate, it cannot be defined and solved. This results into solving only a portion of the whole problem. This problem is related to our inherent view of things from one perspective.

Familiarity is another form of mental block. It occurs when the mentality is filtering out the difficult from the commonplace. Failure to use all our sense is also a mental block. Humans often focus on the visual and they tend to neglect the other stimuli.

Chapter 2: Perceptual Blocks


  1. What is perceptual block?
  2. Stereotyping: Expecting what you expect
  3. Long Term Memory and Short Term Memory
  4. Challenges in isolating the problem
  5. Delimiting the problem features very closely
  6. Not thinking outside the box
  7. Failure to utilize all sensory inputs
  8. Difficulty isolating the problem
  9. Saturation


This chapter discusses perceptual blocks or the factors which influences the way we perceive things and people. This includes our own biases, prejudices, past experiences, and cultural barriers or values. Perceptual blocks hinder the thinker to “absolutely see the problem per se or the information which are required in order to solve the problem.” Because of these block, we fail to filter the problem the right way. It also hinders creative thinking and clearly seeing the problem.

The author suggests tools which can improve our long term and short term memory and aid in enhancing our mental facilities. These include seeing the problem in a more generalized sense, thinking outside the box, utilizing all the sensory inputs, and isolating the problem. According to the author, people often disregard things which go beyond our commonly accepted notions.

Hence, if we cannot see the problem clearly, we also cannot solve it accurately or effectively. To exemplify, the author cited the situation wherein the instructional designer has false ideas about the constituency of the audience because he stereotyped them. Because of this, he/she cannot create the best training program which can be more effective had he not use his stereotyped notions about them.

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Chapter 3: Emotional Blocks


  1. Starting it with a game
  2. Freud
  3. The humanistic psychology
  4. Fear of taking risk
  5. No appetite for chaos
  6. Judging rather than generating ideas
  7. Inability to incubate
  8. Lack of challenge versus the fervent zeal
  9. Reality and fantasy


This chapter emphasizes the importance of emotional blocks are also important. These blocks include the following: the fear to make a mistake, the fear to take risk and the fear to fail. It also includes choosing to judge ideas than generating them and the failure to perceive reality from fantasy.

In this chapter, Adams discusses all the forms of emotional blocks. While these are self-explanatory, the chapter stresses how emotions inhibit us and how we can set them aside in order for us to think more effectively. These blocks, especially our preference for prejudices than in generating an original idea and being impatient with ideas hinder positive thoughts and clear actions. According to the author, these emotions interfere with our natural ability to think, explore and manipulate new concepts and ideas.

This can be explained by the inherent ore biological nature of the human brain wherein it sends stimuli directly and instantly into the emotional foci of the brain (i.e. the amygdale) and hence, make us react emotionally rather rationally to a certain situation. As the emotional foci of the brain makes automatic responses, this can very well hinder creative thinking.

Most of us are uncomfortable with risks and/or making mistakes. This is because we have been shaped in the educational process to always come up with the right answers. Hence, when we have a strong feeling or being embarrassed or rejected, we do not allow our creative minds to conceive new things.

Chapter 4: Cultural and Environmental Blocks


  1. Cultural blocks discussed
  2. Cultural Taboos Explored
  3. Humor in problem solving
  4. Reasons and intuition
  5. Left handed and right handed thinking
  6. Primary and secondary creativity
  7. Change and tradition
  8. Thinking through blocks
  9. Environmental blocks
  10. Supportive environments
  11. Accepting and linking criticisms
  12. Autocratic managers
  13. Non-support


The fourth chapter explored the cultural and environmental blocks to creative thinking. In this chapter, the author discussed topics like cultural taboos, rationality, left handed and right handed thinking, being traditional and embracing changes, etc. It defines the very influential element of culture in how we think. The author considered cultural influences to be strongly influential in one’s thoughts and processes of thinking.

As humans, the author believes that we have imbibed various cultures and we are contextualized according to our age, racial origins, religion, values and the general culture. We imbibe deep beliefs from our cultural osmosis. All these can have a creative innovation. For instance, we think of idleness (culturally) as being lazy and we do not consider it as an incubation period for our minds to generate new and exciting ideas. These types of thinking hinder our new way of thinking. It hinders our creativity.

This chapter implies that thought processes are basically a function of how one is brought up and the social environment he/she was set into. The most special topics under cultural blocks are: problem solving as a serious business and humor being out of place. Other special topics include embracing traditions more than change and solving problems through scientific thinking and finances.

Chapter 5: Intellectual and Expressive Blocks


  1. Intellectual blocks defined
  2. Choosing one’s problem solving language
  3. Flexibility in one’s strategy
  4. The process of elimination
  5. The importance of having the right information


Chapter five explores the mental and the expressive blocks and how humans can overcome it to be more intelligent in expressing one’s self. He described a technique via “Choosing Your Problem-Solving Language.” It suggests an intellectual strategy to solve a problem i.e. by visualization, logic or by simply talking out the problem.

However, the author also expresses that this is not effective unless the individual uses the correct information in solving the problem. This, in turn, leads to the second concept which is “Expressive Blocks” or one’s barrier to articulating the problem or its solution/s. These two blocks tend to happen when an individual takes the framework of viewing the problem from one perspective alone. At times, a certain problem must be viewed in various domains. Hence, it calls for flexibility in one’s thinking so that the block is overcome and a perfect solution to the problem is produced.

Cognitive flexibility allows the thinker to overcome the boundaries of each domain. Hence, it calls for thinking outside the box and presenting various solutions to the problems from different perspectives. For instance, if the client wants to designer to use videos and it is beyond the budget, the designer can make use of photographs instead. The author reminds us that creativity is not just significance in terms of problem solving but as well as enriching the lives of others and ourselves. Creative acts aid our cultural and social evolution.

Chapter 6: Alternate Thinking Languages


  1. Visual thinking
  2. Other sensory languages
  3. Cognitive variances
  4. The challenges of specialization
  5. Analysis- synthesis
  6. Divergence- convergence
  7. Induction - deduction
  8. Jung and the Myers Briggs test

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This chapter on alternate thinking languages discusses more abstract means of approaching problems. The alternative thinking languages which Adams listed include the following: strategic, personality-related, disciplinary, general quality and miscellaneous. Under each thinking language, Adams further enlists prospective modes of thought.

The highlights of these methods are the following: visual thinking and using other sensory languages. The author advocates these as better ways of problem solving. Visual thinking is often used as people consider it as an effective strategy and a potent tool in helping the thinker to make a life like models and conditions. These conditions enable the thinker to see the problem clearly and easily see how it can be solved. The author also considers other sensory languages as important tools to use when tackling a problem. Imagination is an example of a sensory language. The author considers these tools as strong tools in approaching problems. It also aids one to think outside the conventional way of thinking.

Adams tries to unleash the inhibitions to one’s creativity by showing the readers the alternatives to conventional thinking. Since not al is good with sensory and mathematical or sensual languages, these alternates serve its purpose best with those who are challenged by the traditional modes of thinking.

Chapter 7: All Kinds of Blockbusters


  1. A questioning attitude
  2. Working on the right problem
  3. Time and effort focusers
  4. Set breakers
  5. Using other people’s ideas
  6. Crossing disciplines
  7. Crossing cultures and changing environments
  8. Unconscious blockbusting
  9. Maslow
  10. Barron
  11. Other paths for freeing the unconscious


In this chapter, the author emphasizes the role of various questioning techniques and blockbusting strategies to unravel the creativity of a person. The big concepts which are discussed in this chapter are: the role of questions, articulateness and flexibility: volume and diversity, and the various aids to overcome conceptual blocks. These are the following: morphologically forced connections, bug list, check list, among others. There are also ways to unconsciously block mental blockers.

In making a morphologically forced connection, the individual thinker makes an attribute list and alternatives to attribute thought other attributes, and a selection of various combinations. In making a bug list, an individual thinker establishes a specific need and makes a listing of things that seem to be wrong. Adams emphasized the importance of correctly articulating the items listed in the list. In Osborn’s check list, the thinker contemplates on substituting, adapting, modifying or magnifying various concepts related to the problems. He also tries to minimize unnecessary items which are unimportant. Unconscious blockbusting include: postponing judgment, letting the id-ego interact to solve problems, synaptic analogy, personal analogy, direct analogy, symbolic analogy, and fantasy analogy.

The author further advises that these methods must be done in a manner which an individual is less harassed or pressured to solve the problem. He must be in a creative and playful mode. He must be less judgmental or critical about the process of problem solving and of the situation. These tools allow the creative juices to freely flow when one is in the process of arriving at a solution.

Chapter 8: Groups and Organizations


  1. Lack of knowledge of the creative thinking process and using group creativity approaches
  2. Weak understanding of the functions of affiliation and ego requirements
  3. Weak leadership
  4. Poor or unbalanced membership of the group
  5. Inadequate and improper support
  6. Great or little control
  7. Age and size
  8. Conventional and historic success
  9. Poor reward system and support
  10. Closed culture


This final chapter concludes the book by exploring group and organizational contexts through “Groups and Organizations”. Adams said that in various social contexts, people often directly influence other people’s conceptual process and they inherently influence our own thoughts. He further discussed concepts such as “group think” and “ego needs” to illustrate how various types of ideas come out of group thinking and how this can be utilized in determining each individual ego and their collective functions.

The chapter also touched on motivation. The author defined it as the chemistry between people who both want to enhance their thinking and learning in a more collective and effective manner. In other words, the author implies that sometimes, group are better thinkers than an individual. They may effective solutions as compared to when one will just tackle the problem. There are several types of tools to bring forth new and innovative ways to approach problems.

Traditional groups are safe and conventional. However, they are not particularly creative. To encourage creativity in the group, managers must collaborative instead of being authoritative. Managers must also worry about the psychological environment. While each individual member can be creative, groups can contribute enhanced creativity than individuals in a sophisticated organization. They have a greater thinking power compared to an individual.

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