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Weird Ideas That Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation Hardcover – November 13, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Who'd have thought fighting with each other would be good for employees? Or that ignoring superiors would be a wise business practice? Sutton, consultant and professor at the Stanford Engineering School, advocates taking a nontraditional approach to innovation and management in this quirky business manual. He advises taking unorthodox actions, suggesting managers should forget the past, especially successes; hire people who make them uncomfortable and hire slow learners. According to Sutton, these unconventional steps are particularly important when companies are dealing with unusual problems or stuck in a rut. Standard management policy may work for routine work matters, but weird ideas are far more effective when employees are trying to use innovative techniques. Sutton uses many real-life examples, like Tetley's pioneering round teabags, to show readers how his suggestions can work. But he observes that even companies such as IBM, Lucent and GE, which have been praised for their innovation, devote only a small percentage of their annual budgets to testing new products and services. Sutton's writing is clear and persuasive, and his book takes an insightful look at innovation. (Nov. 13)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A professor at the Stanford Engineering School and a consultant who has worked with innovative firms, Sutton shows how "weird" ideas, many of which go against accepted management practices, can promote innovation and success in companies. Here he describes 11Ù weird ideas that work. Among these ideas are hiring "slow learners" of the organizational code; using job interviews to get new ideas and not just to screen candidates; rewarding both success and failure and punishing inaction; forgetting the past, especially a company's past successes; and encouraging people to ignore and/or defy their superiors and peers. Each idea is described thoroughly, and specific guidelines for putting them to use are included. These ideas are based not only on research but on interviews with employees representing all levels in various companies and are illustrated by specific case studies. This thought-provoking book is recommended to both practitioners and business students and should be purchased for academic management collections. Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (November 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743212126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743212120
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Sutton is a Stanford Professor, organizational researcher, and best-selling author. His six management books include New York Times bestsellers "The No A**hole Rule" and "Good Boss, Bad Boss." His forthcoming book (with Stanford's Huggy Rao) is "Scaling Up Excellence." It is the first major management book on tackling this crucial and universal challenge, and is the product of a seven-year effort by Rao and Sutton. To learn more about the book, read new posts and articles on scaling, and to contribute your own story or ask Rao and Sutton questions, please visit www.scalingupexcellence.com.

Sutton was named as one of 10 "B-School All-Stars" by BusinessWeek, described as "professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia." Sutton is an IDEO Fellow and co-founder of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, Center for Work, Technology and Organization, and Stanford Design Institute (the "d.school"). He has written over 100 academic and popular articles and chapters, and over 1000 blog posts. He often leads workshops and gives speeches about his books and is academic director of several Stanford executive programs including Leading for Strategic Execution and (with Huggy Rao) Customer-focused Innovation. Sutton blogs at www.bobsutton.net and tweets @work_matters.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Weird Ideas that Work takes an unusual perspective. Professor Sutton is focusing on how companies can be more creative for tomorrow, while still being effective at delivering today's products and services. Think of this book as what to read after finishing The Innovator's Dilemma.
His perspective combines the concepts of evolutionary biology with behavioral psychology to provide key principles, 11 1/2 ideas for implementing those principles, and 9 guidelines for day-to-day management practices. The key points are supported by examples drawn from organizations that have experienced at least some periods of unusual effectiveness in creating new products and services. He chooses to call these ideas "weird" to get your attention, and to acknowledge that the ideas may not send too obviously correct to you the first few times you hear them.
The three key principles are:
"(1) increase variance in available knowledge,
(2) see old things in new ways, and
(3) break from the past."
The 11 1/2 "weird" ideas for implementing those principles are paraphrased below:
(1) Hire smart people who will avoid doing things the same way your company has always done things.
(1 1/2) Diversify your talent and knowledge base, especially with people who get under your skin.
(2) Hire people with skills you don't need yet, and put them in untraditional assignments.
(3) Use job interviews as a source of new ideas more than as a way to hire.
(4) Give room for people to focus on what interests them, and to develop their ideas in their own way.
(5) Help people learn how to be tougher in testing ideas, while being considerate of the people involved.
(6) Focus attention on new and smarter attempts whether they succeed or not.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Even if you've already read Bob Sutton's "The Weird Rules of Creativity" in Harvard Business Review, don't deprive yourself of the pleasure and benefit of reading his book. While you may not find Sutton's ideas especially weird (more like unorthodox and perhaps contentious), when considered together they definitely push the reader to challenge their assumptions about the corporate conditions conducive to creativity and innovation. Filled with gripping stories from far-flung contexts, Sutton conveys his ideas with verve and passion. These are also some of the qualities that support creativity. As Sutton notes, playfulness, curiosity, and zeal are hallmarks of the innovative company culture. Some books are stuffed with stimulating stories but leave the brain empty. Weird Ideas that Work weaves its tales into a rich fabric of ideas. For instance, Sutton makes the vital distinction between routine work and innovative work. Applying the methods of one to the other can only be disastrous. Related to this, Sutton looks at the issue of whether and when to separate innovation efforts from the mainstream organization. He also makes the distinction (which seems to be catching on more widely) between invention and innovation. Whereas invention is rather like science in that it involves creating something truly new, innovation is more like engineering in that it finds new applications for existing inventions. Grab a copy of this book, kick back for a couple of hours, and see if you can come up with another three and a half weird ideas of your own. One of them might just unlock latent value in your company.
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Format: Hardcover
I had read Sutton's earlier book on the "Knowing-Doing Gap," and I was looking forward to this latest book. I am happy to say that "Weird Ideas that Work" is a terrific complement to this earlier work (and to any management bookshelf in general, I would say), as it presents a compelling case for several innovative management practices. Sutton challenges the reader to take some risks, and looking back at my last challenging management position, I wish I had had this text on-hand to help me take a leap in trying some of these counterintuitive practices (for example, I should have stuck to applying Weird Idea #1, keeping a "slow learner of the organizational code" longer in my group). I also appreciated the mix of management (and psychological) theory with examples that are easy to understand and recall, such as how the practice seeing something old as something new, at times a disadvantage, can in fact lead to innovative products, from round tea bags to new designs for palm computers. In summary, an inspiring book that will be referenced often.
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Format: Hardcover
There are dozens of excellent books on the subject of innovation and this is one of the best. Frankly, I found none of Sutton's ideas "weird." Unorthodox, thought-provoking, and perhaps even somewhat controversial but certainly not weird. (Perhaps the title was devised to accommodate marketing needs.) He makes two important distinctions: between routine work (essentially defending and sustaining the status quo) and innovative work (challenging and disrupting, perhaps even transforming the status quo), and, between invention (creating something entirely new) and innovation (discovering new applications for what has already been invented). He also correctly acknowledges the advantages and disadvantages of separating innovation initiatives from the traditional organization structure. In Organizing Genius, Patricia Ward Biederman and Warren Bennis explain why it was so important to establish Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California, far removed from corporate headquarters in Connecticut. Sutton suggests that such separation may not always be possible or at least prudent. In general, though, innovation is most productive when not constrained by limits of any kind. Indeed, innovation worthy of the name is by nature anathema to order and structure. For me, the greatest value of this book lies not in any one or even in all of the "Weird Ideas" which Sutton proposes; rather, in what could be the "world view" and mindsets which those ideas suggest. "Feelings -- not cold cognitions -- drive people to turn good ideas into reality....Every innovative company I know is passionate about solving problems....Read more ›
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