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Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small Hardcover – October 24, 2003

ISBN-13: 000-1591391539 ISBN-10: 1591391539 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press; 1st edition (October 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591391539
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591391531
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,571,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Yale professors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres engage readers in an intriguing oxymoron. They believe invention can be automated. Why Not? outlines a populist high-octane approach to creative problem solving. "We aspire for this book to change the way people think about their own ability to change the world." The authors' ideas and examples--from adopting British water conserving toilets to having telemarketers pay you to listen--bristle with energy, conviction, and occasional loopiness. Their approach upends cliched problem solving models by asking, "What would Croseus (the ancient rich king) do?" They take Edward de Bono's lateral thinking out for a spin, suggesting pay for view television might include a fee for eliminating commercials.

Nalebuff and Ayres are at their best in exploring "Idea Arbitrage," a tool for applying one solution to a host of other problems and yielding day care at IKEA, corporate vanity stamps, and library coffee houses. Some promising concepts, such as the technique of leveraging mistakes to create new solutions, are not as clear as others. Overall, the authors make an entertaining case for the idea that innovators are made and not born. --Barbara Mackoff

From Publishers Weekly

The notion that innovation can be "routinized" is a perennial theme of business theorists. This engaging primer is more insightful than the usual free-associational, brainstorming protocols. Economist Nalebuff and law professor Ayres insist that "innovation is a skill that can be taught," and distill it into a few rules of thumb, like "where else would it work?" (putting airline data recorders into cars, for example) and "would flipping it work?", which involves gonzo conceptual inversions like students raising their hands to not be called on or "reverse 900 numbers" where telemarketers pay people to accept calls. Leavened with a little economics, game theory, psychology and contract law, the authors' framework furnishes useful heuristics to analyze a host of problems from auto theft to campaign finance reform. The result is an interesting compendium of market-oriented socioeconomic fixes, some intriguing (having HMOs sell their members life insurance as an incentive to keep them alive), and a few improbable (offering Palestinians stock in Israeli companies in exchange for a peace settlement). Their system does not, alas, always live up to its billing as an assembly line for business innovations. Many of the ideas they showcase are culled from other sources, and many, like having video renters rewind before-not after-they watch the tape, amount to trivial wrinkles on established practice. The dream of reducing creativity to a set of automatic procedures, shorn of expertise, trial-and-error, eureka moments and plain old hardthinking remains elusive, but the authors seem to know it when they see it.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

While there is definitely a need for truly original ideas and solutions, there is also value in building on existing ideas.
Stacy E. Burrell
They indicate that most great ideas come from two basic thinking strategies, including problems in search of solutions and solutions in search of problems.
Gaetan Lion
After reading the book, one particular thought began repeating itself inside my head: "Sowing seed into the collective consciousness".
Tom DiFrancesca III

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on October 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book on creative thinking. It shows you how it does not take a rocket scientist to be a creative genius. The authors demonstrate several creative thinking strategies that work very well. They indicate that most great ideas come from two basic thinking strategies, including problems in search of solutions and solutions in search of problems. The first strategy (problems in search of solutions) leads to the development of many new incremental products and services. They are not so new in their concept, but they represent a different twist on existing concepts. The second strategy (solutions in search of problems) leads to totally brand new technological and innovative breakthroughs. Both strategies add tremendous value to our society, to commerce, and represents incremental hundred of $billion in national economic wealth.
The authors illustrate their creative concepts by many examples taken from the business world, and how corporations have introduced really innovative and successful products worldwide. Examples include many creative financial services and product concepts. So, if you work for a bank or a financial service company, you may find a lot of food for thoughts here. But, examples are also taken from many different industries. So, regardless of where you work, this book will have practical applications for you.
I work in a small think tank of one of the major financial institutions on the West Coast. Parts of my yearly MBOs entail coming up with new financial product structures for my employer. I was a bit in a creative thinking rut. Just by reading this book, following the strategies suggested by the authors, I came up with a couple of very interesting product concepts that I can�t wait to present to my management. This book is really fun, and it will enhance both your creativity and your career.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Tom DiFrancesca III on October 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've often been considered a creative type fella' - a good problem solver. Lately though, my brain has been full of cob webs and dust bunnies - creative thought was almost impossible. That all changed a few weeks ago, when I began reading this book - it re-energized my thinking and removed the barriers that were impeding my creative flow. After reading the book, one particular thought began repeating itself inside my head: "Sowing seed into the collective consciousness". I truly believe in the concept of sowing and reaping - that everything we do should not be money motivated. That is what this book teaches - that not every good idea should be kept inside of our heads, simply because we do not have the money or resources to do anything with that idea. Why be selfish? Why not share our ideas with others - others who may be able to utilize that idea or variations of it to solve critical issues in their lives - personally and professionally?
Another aspect of this book is to teach concrete easy to learn problem-solving techniques. No fancy terminology, no vague concepts - no empty marketing "fluff" that has been generated to fill the pages of a book. These techniques can be utilized by everyone - from the blue collar worker, to the homemaker, to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
The authors of this book don't leave their readers empty handed either. They have created a Web site ([...] where their concepts and techniques can be put right into practice. In fact, at this very moment - a small town in New Mexico is about to utilize that Web site to begin making dramatic changes to their community.
This book is a "must read" - I suggest that it be purchased and read prior to the new year - use it's teachings as a catalyst for making major positive changes in your life in 2004.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
All these years, you've been eating bananas the wrong way. The part you think is the top? Wrong. It's the bottom. You doubt that? Look at any picture of a monkey eating a banana. He holds what you think is the top in his fist, where it becomes a serviceable handle. Then he peels the top --- what you think of as the bottom --- and happily munches away.

For that matter, when you eat ice cream, how do you put the spoon in your mouth? Right side up, I'll bet. Tasty? You may think so. But would you change your mind --- and your eating habits --- if you knew your taste buds were all on your tongue?

Let's consider car theft. You may think you have thwarted criminals by putting a Club on your steering wheel. And you have --- for your car. At the same time, however, you have sent the car thief down the block looking for another victim. But if you had installed a Lojack, the would-be thief wouldn't have known your car was protected. Yes, he might have stolen it. But the odds are very good that he would have been caught --- and sent away where he couldn't steal any more cars. Which is why Massachusetts decreed that cars with Lojacks get a 25% discount on insurance. And why auto theft in Boston dropped 50%.

brilliant ideas? Yes. But not, say Yale professors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, beyond your reach. Innovation, they argue, can be taught. You just need an open mind, a decent imagination and a willingness to challenge received wisdom. Like Bette Nesmith (yes, mother of the leader of The Monkees). She wondered why artists could paint over their mistakes but typists couldn't. The result: White-Out. The later result: Gillette bought her company for $48 million. Or like Wayne Gretsky, the first hockey player to take the puck behind the opponent's goal.
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