The Universal Traveler: A Soft-Systems Guide to: Creativity, Problem-Solving, and the Process of Reaching Goals

By Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall

This one’s cool—another weird older book that drew me in with a crazy cover! It posits a “universally relevant” process for systematically solving problems. It appears to take a lot of ideas derived from cybernetics, but with the technical terminology translated into a more simplified, conversational style. This is what makes it a “soft-systems” guide, rather than a guide that uses systems which are hard or complex—it’s basically a more “user-friendly approach to problem solving”. It’s typeset in a monospace font and looks super dated, but also kind of appealing because of it.

The Universal Traveler is all about taking a “systems thinking” approach to complex problems, and making that approach easy to understand and implement. The authors teach a design process that “underpins all human endeavors”—a process and a journey that can be useful in all sorts of situations.

It’s a bit unclear exactly what makes this process so magical and great, but the reviews seem to bear out that it’s not bullshit: “Worth Its Weight in Gold…one of the most important books I have ever read.” And, similarly: “Literally Life Changing…top 3 books I have ever read.”

I’m quite interested in problem solving and books which elucidate the ways that problems can be solved more effectively—from the classic “lateral thinking puzzles” and brain teaser books with logic puzzles and such, to more complicated guides to e.g. organizational behavior and interpersonal communication and so on. I love how “the design of this book is for it to serve as a general storehouse of information for the traveler through life.” Seems like a great foundation in systems thinking, design thinking, and general problem solving.

The table of contents is called “The Anatomy of the Universal Traveler”, which I like—in fact it’s structured with a lot of travel metaphors—”side trips” with “additional possibilities”, a “travelers map”, etc.—that overall make it seem kind of corny but fun!

Additional information:

  • ISBN: 978-0913232057
  • Publisher: W. Kaufmann

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