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Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big And Small [Paperback]

by Barry Nalebuff, Ian Ayres
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1, 2006 1422104346 978-1422104347 First Trade Paper Edition
Why Not? is a primer for fresh thinking, for problem-solving with a purpose, for bringing the world a few steps closer to the way it should be. Idealistic? Yes. Unrealistic? According to Why Not? authors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, no.

Illustrated with examples from every aspect of life, Why Not? offers techniques which will help you take the things we all see, every day, and think about them in a new way. Great ideas are waiting. Why not be the one to discover them?

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Editorial Reviews 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; First Trade Paper Edition edition (December 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422104346
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422104347
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Not? Why It is Great! October 18, 2003
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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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book - change the world. October 20, 2003
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
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, insightful, useful
This book was required for a class, but it was the best required reading I've ever had. I would read it if it were not required if I had known how good it was. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Steven Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars The Potential for Innovation Is All Around Us!
Below are five key lessons from the book, in the form of excerpts:

1- "Some people have the notion that coming up with concrete solutions for real-world problems is... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Omar Halabieh
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Read, Great Points
This is our required reading for my Master's class. Way better than a standard textbook. Easy/quick read, easy to apply in the real world.
Published 14 months ago by Joel
1.0 out of 5 stars buy it from some local store
It took 20 days to get it. You better want to get it from some where else!!!!!!!!
I can not wait that long!!!!!!!
Published 14 months ago by Guangping Zhang
2.0 out of 5 stars not what I was looking for.
I enjoy reading self-help books and this didnt really do it for me. Topics went around in circles with few examples to explain concepts. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Vito Errico
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful, Practical Advice
Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres provide practical advice on identifying and applying innovations in business models, pricing, products and services. Read more
Published on April 8, 2012 by Tom K.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not all great solutions come from left field
Thought provoking sections with practical ideas to consider.

The following quote from the preface sums it up:
Discovery consists of seeing what everyone else has... Read more
Published on May 5, 2009 by Kimberly Barnes
3.0 out of 5 stars Why not write slightly better?
This book is worth buying if the subject interests you, but manage your expectations, The paperback version of this book is probably fairly priced. Read more
Published on December 27, 2008 by Epictetus
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that kickstarted my passion for reading
Why Not? called out to me from the bookshelf. This was odd because I'd not enjoyed reading in years. In the end I picked it up. This was three years ago. Why Not? Read more
Published on August 31, 2008 by Rishi Rawat
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Interesting book. It makes me wish I had grown up to be an economist.
Published on March 25, 2008 by David
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