Book Review: Obvious Adams – The Story of a Successful Businessman

While listening to another episode of Entrepreneurs on Fire, I learned about a book called Obvious Adams: The Story of a Successful Businessman*. It is a story of a successful businessman written by Robert R. Updegraff. During the podcast, they indicated that this was a very good book on marketing and that everyone should read it, so naturally I did.

The original book was written in 1916 and included in The Saturday Evening Post as a short story. It was later released as a book—a very short book. It is only 42 pages long. In addition to the introduction and forward, it has two major parts: the story and lessons learned. According to the introduction, this book was highly recommended to be on the reading list for anyone who was in the advertising or marketing business.

The first part of the book is about a businessman named Oliver B. Adams. It’s basically a story about this young boy who moved into the advertising business and became very successful for identifying the obvious; therefore, earning the name Obvious Adams. More importantly, it is about taking the complex and making it simple through thorough research. It was about avoiding creating  something that was too clever instead creating something that when people saw it immediately said it was so obvious.

I found this to be actually quite a fun and interesting story with useful lessons.

The second half of the book was added on by the author many years after the story was released. This part is basically 5 tests of obviousness and 5 creative approaches to the obvious. The author shares lessons from the story and explains how others can get the same results. The bottom line that you have to do your research to create a solution so simple that others consider it obvious. I think there are some really good lessons in this section. There is also another very short section called the manager’s toolkit and it includes a three-step plan for implementing this for your people. The most important step is to read the book.

As I noted, this is a very short read; you could finish it in a matter of minutes. It is 40 pages written in a conversational style. I found a copy of the original story through the Library of Congress; unfortunately, the additional lessons are not included. If you get a chance to read it, I would recommend that you do so. However, I am not sure I would recommend purchasing it. I will leave that up to you.

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