I've heard Tim Hurson speak a couple of times, and he's a good speaker. So I got his book, Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking. Now, consultant's books are often a waste of time, as I'm sure you know. This one isn't.*
What I liked about Think Better
I liked the book for several reasons. It's readable, it's clear, it's demystifying, and there are some decent graphics to break up the text.
The book sets forth a useful process for solving problems that is built on the Osborne-Parnes Creative Problem Solving (CPS) framework. Osborne-Parnes is the granddaddy of creativity models. Mr. Hurson has taken his considerable learning and experience in this model and others, and distilled it into a six-step approach. It's similar to CPS, but seems more grounded and approachable.
One element that makes a lot of sense to me is establishing some success criteria before generating ideas, which is a bit different than the CPS framework. While this might seem limiting, it can also be energizing.
Here are the six steps to thinking better as Mr. Hurson has reframed them:  What's going on  What's success  What's the question  Generate answers  Forge the solution and  Align Resources.
Each of these steps has examples and exercises that can get you started.
There is also a very good beginning section to the book that explains why our hard-wiring tends to lead us to too-quick solutions and wrong solutions (Chapter 2: Monkey Mind, Gator Brain and the Elephant's Tether.) And there is a good description about the difference between reproductive thinking and productive thinking, and the importance of staying with a problem long enough to generate really innovative ideas, (Chapters 3 to 5)
We need both kinds of thinking, of course. But reproductive thinking is the type of process that can lead us to incremental improvements in things, to supporting productivity initiatives and six-sigma initiatives, and similar approaches. Best practices studies are a great example of seeking out the best in reproductive thinking and figuring out how to apply it.
Productive thinking is new thinking. It is thinking that takes us to improvements or changes that are more than incremental. Sometimes it means really redefining what the problem is.
My everyday example
When we planted new bulbs last year, the squirrels started eating them. My problem: how to stop the squirrels from eating the bulbs.
I did have some success criteria. The solution could not be ugly. It had to leave a good-looking garden. And no squirrels could be cruelly harmed.
Helpful neighbors suggested using chicken wire as a physical barrier. [Just too ugly for my refined sensibilities.] So we tried a number of other remedies, such as scattering everything from blood meal to chili pepper flakes and cloves. Not totally satisfactory.
Upon further consideration, perhaps I need to redefine the problem. Maybe the challenge is to plant bulbs that squirrels don't like to eat? Or even rethinking my ideas about what can be planted in a front garden? Why not tomatoes and lettuce instead of flowering bulbs? You get the idea.
These methods can be used on your own, or in groups. They can be used for day-to-day problem solving, or addressing big, world-changing issues.
If you are tired of reading books on creative thinking that leave you wondering how to get started, this one is a good choice. It's practical and tactical.
What I missed in this book:
As a researcher, I was looking for ways to incorporate the voice of customers into this process. I largely found that missing. For the most part, the assumption is that the team has direct access to the data related to the challenge at hand.
Don't let that stop you, however. The next book I'm going to review is very strong on the listening-to-customers element, and weaker on the creative problem-solving process. Together, they're dynamite.
Sites that describe the Osborne-Parnes model well:
Six-stage model on one page: http://members.optusnet.com.au/charles57/Creative/Brain/cps.htm
This web site presents a nice, simple, guide to the basic core of the Osborne-Parnes approach. You can read it in the time it takes to sip a coffee and put it to work immediately.
Wikipedia starting point
Tim Hurson's book: Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking. He's also started a blog which looks promising, here.
Alex Osborne's book, Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking is currently not available via Amazon. Try a library or look for it used if you want to go back to the source.
* My book, The Innovative Organization, is not like this either. It's not tactical, but several people have told me it is clear and useful. All proceeds of the book go to the business school that funded the research. If you read it, I'd welcome your feedback.
Addendum April 17:
In my efforts to sift out blatant promotions from comments, I threw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Apologies to reader Peter (see comments below), who has a great recommendation for a book he enjoyed. His comments really make me want to read the book.