Obvious Adams - my notes

  • Extremely interesting reading this in combination with studying improv comedy. One of the key things you learn in improv is to lean into the obvious instead of trying to come up with something clever.
  • When you try to come up with something clever, your left brain starts taking over which is bad at generating deep insights or creative ideas. You start judging your own ideas and the output will be mediocre at best.
  • The book does a pretty good job at explaining the importance of this idea in a business context.


  • People believe that complex solutions are better, that big problems require big complicated solutions, when usually that’s not the case.
  • Most entrepreneurs and marketers suffer from business astigmatism. They can’t see the forest for the trees. They do not understand that so many things that are completely obvious to them are fascinating and novel to outsiders. Instead of trying to come up with complex narratives, they should simply state the obvious. Simple ads that explain what the product is/does and why it’s different work. No need for smart ideas.


“The only problem is that often the obvious doesn’t appear so obvious because people are searching for complexity. Too many leaders, managers, executives, and coaches think solving a problem should require a complicated solution.”

“As a society we like complex solutions because we think if something has more steps, involves processes, or costs more then it must be better.”

“there is nothing clever about these advertisements. They are just simple statements of fact. But I honestly believe that the telling of them in a simple, straightforward way as qualities of your paper, month after month, would in a comparatively short time make people begin to think of yours as something above the ordinary among papers.”

“Professor Zueblin is right when he says that thinking is the hardest work many people ever have to do, and they don’t like to do any more of it than they can help. They look for a royal road through some short cut in the form of a clever scheme or stunt, which they call the obvious thing to do; but calling it doesn’t make it so. They don’t gather all the facts and then analyze them before deciding what really is the obvious thing, and thereby they overlook the first and most obvious of all business principles.”

“What might be obvious to us is often unknown to the rest of the world. For example, the business owner was well aware of the unique qualities of his company’s paper, but that isn’t obvious to his audience, who aren’t industry experts. There will always be details of your product or service that are obvious to you and your staff which are completely unknown to the general public. What are they for you? Identifying them will both eliminate unnecessary complexity and prevent you from ignoring the obvious.”

“Many small business men have an aggravated case of business astigmatism which could be cured if they would do the obvious thing of calling in some business specialist to correct their vision and give them a true view of their own business and methods. And that might be said of a lot of big businesses, too.”

“Study most of the men who are getting salaries of upward of one hundred thousand dollars a year. They are nearly all doers of the obvious.”

“We are living in perhaps the most complicated time in human history (the external world), and the happiest and most fulfilled people are those who uncomplicate it and seek simplicity.”

Written on April 14, 2024

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