Professor Adams attended Caltech (B.S.}, U.C.L.A. (one year of art), served a tour in the Air Force, and held short-term jobs in design and development in industry (Hunter Douglas, Shell Oil Co. General Motors) before receiving his Ph.D from Stanford (Mechanical engineering with an art minor). After receiving the degree he was employed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California where he was involved in the design of the first spacecraft to explore the Moon, Venus and Mars. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1966. The courses he has taught at Stanford range from mechanical and product design through courses having to do with the nature of technology.
He is particularly interested in issues having to do with the management of creativity and change in technology-based organizations, with the design process and product design, and with the emotional aspects of technology. He has consulted and conducted seminars on the topics of creativity, innovation, general problem-solving, organizational change, management of R&D, planning, and design for over 100 commercial clients, ranging from large to small and technical to financial. He has also been a consultant and lecturer to a large number of government, educational, and professional groups and been a faculty member in many executive programs at Stanford.
He is the author of Conceptual Blockbusting, a popular book on creative thinking, The Care and Feeding of Ideas, a book directed toward the management of creativity and change, Flying Buttresses, Entropy, and O-Rings, a book on the nature of engineering, and Good Products Bad Products, a book on overall product quality.