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Weird Ideas That Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation Hardcover – November 13, 2001
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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.
Top customer reviews
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This being said, the formatting of the book is broken. A lot of spaces are missing, resulting in words being together, which often makes you lose your rhythm.
Still, a very nice read.
Addendum: It's interesting to note that the Kindle editions seems to be at fault for the missing spaces (as reported by the author, Robert I. Sutton, and hopefully will be corrected in future updates)
This is no "ivory-tower" management tomb -- as you read through each chapter, you can't avoid the fact that Sutton had to actually get out of his office to go prowl the trenches of the product development world in search of these 11.5 ideas. No pontificating here; these are real-world lessons gleaned from watching world-class firms like IDEO, Handspring, and 3M go about the difficult task of innovating on a routine basis.
Weird though they may be, Sutton's 11.5 ideas are pragmatic, actionable, and will take your business to where you want it to be. Buy this book. Give it to your boss, and your boss's boss, and to anyone who thinks 6-sigma is the only answer to the world's problems.
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.
(7) Use the power of self-confidence to encourage unconventional trials.
(8) Use "bad" ideas to help reveal good ones.
(9) Keep a balance between having too much and too little outside contact in your creative activities.
(10) Have people with little experience and new perspectives tackle key issues.
(11) Escape from the mental shackles of your organization's past successes.
Where most books on creativity focus on how the reader can make her- or himself more productive, this ones takes on what leaders and managers can do to establish an environment where more ideas will be generated and tested. There's no assumption that you can find ways to make few mistakes. In fact, you are encouraged to simply make more and different mistakes, and quit spending behind the ones that aren't working sooner.
Professor Sutton leaves you with a challenging thought. "What if these are ideas are true?" The only way you can find out is to try them.
I thought that the book's best advice was to fill the organization with "people who are passionate about solving problems." In my experience, it is hard to find people who are filled with "playfulness and curiosity" about the focus of a particular company. Once you have that situation, you need to "switch emotional gears between cynicism and belief." In reading this material, I was reminded of the section in Built to Last that encourages people to turn "or" choices into "and" situations.
Although this book will not be enough to guide your company into being more creatively productive, I think it is an important addition to the literature on corporate creativity. I thought that the book's main weakness is that it made little attempt to differentiate among the techniques that might be used to solve different classes of problems. For example, creating the concept for a new service is fundamentally different from finding a better way to provide an existing one. From my own research, I am also convinced that creating a new business model is a different type of task from any other that companies do. I also think that acquisitions and mergers can either help or hurt corporate creativity. This book did not do enough to address that special circumstance. Perhaps Professor Sutton will follow up this interesting book with a series that looks more narrowly at different classes of problems that respond well to more creativity.
How can your organization vastly increase its flow of new ideas, test them more rapidly and less expensively, and more certainly pick out the best ideas to implement? How much time are you spending on thinking about these important questions?
Be open for and prepared to search far and wide for new variations to test!