Weird Ideas That Work | Book by Robert I. Sutton | Official Publisher Page  | Simon & Schuster

About the author

Robert I. Sutton is a professor of management and technology at Stanford University; is the former director of the Center for Professionalism, Technology and Organization.

He is the author of The No Asshole Rule. Co-author of: The Knowing – Dving Gap, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, Total Nonsense silly).

Main Content

Quirky, paradoxical but disruptive ideas will help any business maintain the current job, while innovating to differentiate and grow. This is a spectacular innovation in management thinking.

Part I

Chapter 1: Why do weird ideas work?

The new ideas in this book seem “odd”, paradoxical. Because it will "bump" into the old management, "bump" into popular belief. However, many managers realize that in order to innovate, they must operate according to different customs, not according to normal practices.

To build a company where creativity becomes style, not randomness, people have to throw away, have to reverse, have to do things that go against common sense. Because it would be crazy to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.

The old framework is about exploiting old ideas, is to rely on the past, mature processes, tested technology for immediate profit.

March points out that, in the long run, no company can survive by following the old framework. To make money in the long run, must test new things, explore new possibilities, test new processes, invent new experiences, new technologies to satisfy new customer needs, gain advantage over competitors .

Variation – A series of differences

When the goal is reform, businesses need variation in the way they think, do and in products.

To get a few ideas to work, we need to try a lot of ideas. Boyle said, "It's impossible to come up with new ideas without going through stupid, lousy, and crazy ideas."

In the process of testing new things, we may encounter many obstacles, must constantly learn from success and failure to constantly come up with new ideas, products and services that make competitors scratch their heads.

Vu ja de: Seeing old things in a new way

The second principle is to have a new look at old things, also known as the "Vu ja de" mentality. Albert Szent Gyorgi, who was the first to isolate vitamin C, said: “Discovery means looking at the same old thing as everyone else but thinking of something new.”

The spirit of Vu ja de is the ability to constantly change thoughts and perceptions, shifting in the mind from clear objects in front of the eyes to things that are vaguely unfamiliar, between close-ups and panoramas. It means seeing things that are viewed as negative as positive and vice versa.

Separated from the past

Books talk a lot about the risks in business when clinging to the past. But in reality, the rate of death of new products and companies is much higher than that of old products and companies.

Does this mean you should stop trying to innovate? Absolutely not! The world is always changing, new technologies are always born, consumer preferences also change. Many companies make a fortune by offering a fresher future. Therefore, despite the high failure rate, it is always necessary to try to give up the old styles in favor of a better new one. To break away from the past, the company needed rich ideas and the spirit of Vu ja de.

Chapter 2: What is Creation?

Creativity is the result of using old ideas in new ways, in new environments, with new integrations.

Edison needed a bunch of "stuff" in the lab - the stuff that was already there - to invent new things. A great new technology is worthless unless someone buys it. We have to convince people that the idea is worth it.

There are three coordinated ways to achieve this goal:

1. Give old ideas to those who don't know yet

Old ideas should be carefully preserved so that when needed they are readily available to those who find the idea fresh and useful. Example: From the heart valve in the medical industry, engineers got the idea to create a "one-way valve" for the water tank of Specialized bicycle company. This is a type of plastic one-way valve that only allows liquid to pass through when under pressure.

2. Find new uses for old ideas

Creativity is finding new uses for old materials, objects, products, services or concepts. For example, in 1954, teacher Kay Zufall was always on the lookout for new toys for children. When she passed her brother-in-law's factory, which was making a plasticizer used to remove soot from wallpaper, she brought home a can of powder, which she rounded up each pellet, cut it into the shape of stars, Cute animal as a toy for his students. At Zufall's suggestion, the brother-in-law adjusted the powder formula to be safe for children and added more colors. This children's toy product is named "Play-Doh" and has been the most enduring success in the children's toy market ever since.

3. Coordinating existing ideas

Creativity also means creating completely new ideas, products and services. Most completely new things do not fall from the sky but are combinations of old things, ideas, or actions.

"In a way, I don't think there's anything new in Java," says Jamas Gosling, a co-author of Java. But Java was a great breakthrough that made it easier to write, create, post, and edit content on the internet.

In short, an idea is innovative when it is new to the user or person who evaluates the idea, and believes it can bring value to themselves or to others.

Part II: Weird Ideas

Chapter 3: Recruiting slow learners

Don't hire stupid people, of course, but hire people of the "special stupid" type. They are stubborn people, slow to digest the organizational rules of the company. They are the ones who won't repeat the tested way of thinking and doing over and over. In particular, they are people who have not been brainwashed to think exactly like other people.

James March studied the “slow learner” for more than a decade, and identified three traits of their personality: Unconcerned with other people's reactions, avoiding contact with associates, and have very high self-esteem.

They are people who are insensitive to insinuating or even blunt signals from others about how to do things. Their feelings and actions are “driven by attitudes, aspirations, and intrinsic values ​​rather than conforming to circumstances.” They are willing to say and do what they think is right, regardless of the pressure of the majority.

People who are "retarded" are also socially avoidant. They are usually shy people, they are especially uncomfortable around people, they are happiest when they are alone, pursuing their ideas and absorbed in their own reflections, they are not Like to work in teams, but they really enrich the source of ideas in the company.

After all, these people are all egotistical, confident in doing what they think is right, regardless of what others ask, tell, or expect them to do.

However, the confidence and steadfastness of such people does not guarantee the success of the company. Therefore, it takes time to test their unusual ideas to see if they are really superior.

Chapter 4: Recruiting People You Don't Like

If you hire people that you feel like, internally feel like and comfortable with, it's just an internal copy. Conversely, if you hire people with different knowledge and skills that make you feel disliked, uncomfortable, and emotionally negative, that's a strong indicator that that person will contribute to the idea. new to the company.

If you're young, hire older people. On the contrary, if you are an elderly person, then hire young people. The age difference often causes discomfort and conflict, but they still need each other to complement each other's skills and experience.

Although Steve Jobs disliked and sometimes clashed with Markkula and Scotte, without the financial expertise, marketing knowledge, and executive skills of Mark and Scotte, Apple's breakthrough technology could not be admired by anyone. known.

Chapter 5: Recruiting People You Don't Need

Suggesting creativity by recruiting people with skills is hardly necessary, it sounds like a joke, but from reasoning, smart people always learn new skills, they have skills. Rich can help the company have new ideas. These are people who bring in skills from elsewhere that, while not essential to the job at hand, may be valuable in the future. Because today skills and techniques very quickly become obsolete.

Justin Kitch, CEO of Homestead, said: “We look for smart people with the right attitude. We don't even know how to use them yet, but we figured they could teach us something new and necessary." Kitch hires a doctor as a programmer, a lawyer in the human resources department. Kitch's theory is that these interesting people are smart enough to learn the job they're applying for, so take the time to train them, because their other skills could be useful in the future. Be wise to understand that creative work is inherently full of surprises, and it is often wrong to judge which knowledge will be useful and which will be useless.

Chapter 6: Get ideas from interviews

The unexpected benefit of job interviews is that we can stimulate creativity. If done properly, interviews will enrich the source of ideas in the company.

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, said after job interviews: “I learn a lot from the kids. They tell me what they're learning in technology classes and have weird ideas I've never thought of."

While not advocating using interviews for espionage purposes, but through candidates, interviewers can gather and exploit valuable information about rival companies.

So, wisely, you need to be wise to sit quietly and listen and know how to ask questions, don't act like you know much and think fast.

Chapter 7 : Encourage others to ignore and challenge superiors and colleagues

Companies with strong cultures are more effective in their operations. To create a strong culture, in addition to teaching employees the necessary skills of the job, you need to communicate the history and philosophy of the company, train new people how to do or not to do, why. why, in order to eliminate unexpected differences.

However, a company that wants to have a lot of ideas needs to create conditions for employees to brainstorm, make suggestions to improve the process, must create an arena, a healthy competition for excellent ideas. most won. To do so, the company had to adopt some somewhat unusual but effective methods.

Recruit challengers

Recruit people to assign the task of review, they are people with skills that the company desperately needs, with their professional strengths, they are "disruptive" and challenge conservatives.

Apply the “ backwards ” integration process

Using new people to create new ways of thinking and doing things for old people is reverse training. Many studies show that when a company faces financial or legal difficulties, outsiders are more likely to be chosen as CEOs than insiders.

Lou Gerstner, for example, was recruited to reform IBM. When he took the job, Gerstner began to destroy the IBM culture and undertook a radical overhaul, turning IBM into a company that now profited more from consulting services than from product sales.

Encourage employees to ignore and ignore superiors

To maintain a culture of innovation, it is more important to encourage employees not to give in to their superiors and entrenched processes. These disobedient and stubborn people sometimes come up with brilliant new ideas and enrich the collective. Innovators often exploit the power loopholes in a company's structuring process so that no one can stop them.

Manage by backing out

Hire smart people, motivate them to move forward in certain situations and step back to see the situation. Stepping back and following people is very important when managing something that you are not familiar with. Sometimes the best management is to manage nothing at all.

Chapter 8: Find those who are cheerful and urge them to fight

For creative groups and companies, the conflict of ideas is necessary. On the contrary, the groups that always have a high consensus mean that they are creatively poor. Robert F. Kennedy said: “It is not enough to allow disagreement, we must demand it.” That's advice for leaders with novel ideas.

However, if the conflict comes from feelings of not liking each other, hating each other is very harmful, it will kill creativity.

Hiring optimists is the best way to avoid personal attacks. Humor helps reduce stress in life. Smiling helps people feel happy and creates positive emotions. Many studies show that people are more creative in a state of euphoria. But people who are happy and optimistic but don't practice debating should let them do routine work rather than creative work.

Chapter 9: Reward success and failure, punish passivity

The only way to avoid defects in the product development process is to not propose any new ideas at all. Using only proven methods kills creativity.

To encourage employees to be creative and come up with new ideas, it is not enough to reward them when they succeed, but also to reward them when they fail, especially situations that create valuable lessons and help them at the same time. Excited to keep going.

“Monitoring and rewarding failure is just as important as the process of controlling and rewarding performance,” says the Duke University researcher. If failure is seriously considered a strategic plan, employees who do not "fail" enough can be seen as lack of effort, not confronting failure to come to a solution."

Inactivity is the worst mistake, perhaps the only one that deserves punishment, if you want to encourage creativity. Those who only criticize the ideas of their colleagues but never give any ideas deserve the same fate.

Chapter 10: Doing What Looks Like It Will Fail

Some executives and experts admit their incompetence at not being able to accurately predict which ideas will succeed, and encourage people to keep experimenting.

Numerous studies help explain why successful geeks tend to be confident and determined. They believe deeply in what they are doing and are adept at convincing everyone around them that they are right.

Steve Jobs is famous for this ability. His employees often talk about how he charms people around and makes them believe that the success of an idea, a project is almost certain.

In short, surveys and facts show that, if you can't decide which projects or ideas are risky, choose to support the most persuasive and consistent eccentrics.

Chapter 11: See the unusual or the unrealistic

Coming up with the silliest, most ridiculous, and most unrealistic things is an eloquent way to explore the world. There are three reasons why thinking about silly things is a smart move for a company that wants to be a cradle of creativity.

1/ Clearly define what to do

This method is used to clarify what the company must do, or at least what people believe needs to be done. By listing what people consider to be false or misleading, and then reverse it, we have another avenue to perceive beliefs, theories, and evidence about action goals. The application of this odd idea helps people see what they are doing right or wrong, and what they must do differently in order to progress.

2/ Challenging assumptions about course of action

First, identify the most ridiculous, silliest, most unrealistic things a company can do, and then pretend these are brilliant and lucrative ideas, to find out why belief Your irony can be completely wrong.

Forbes magazine wrote about "stupid business ideas of 1999", it's hard to hear that we agree with those ideas, but it is these ideas that have brought efficiency and high profits, such as: music for pets, Southwest Airlines identifies its competitors as the ground transportation market, not other airlines etc…

Humans are inertly stuck in pre-made patterns. When we act on inertia, we cannot judge whether what we are doing is positive or negative.

3/ B defends those who think “differently”

Apple Computer's simple slogan is "Think Different". If you really want to encourage employees to come up with ideas that are seen as silly and unrealistic, then banish ridicule and humiliation, even if not maliciously, when someone comes up with ideas. weird, to avoid damaging the soul and spirit of those who dare to think and dare to do new things.

Chapter 12: Avoid anyone who wants to talk about money

The presence of fellow human beings increases physiological arousal, which increases energy, but distracts from established activities and distracts from novel activities. In particular, people are often reluctant to try new things in front of people who can judge them, like critics or bosses.

In particular, if you want to protect a promising idea from dying in its infancy or being distorted into a copy of an old one, you must be careful not to expose your creative work to three types of people: customers, managers and traders.

1/ The wrong customers , or the right but not the right time

When you ask customers what they want, they'll stick to something familiar, they'll focus on what they need now, not what they'll need and want in the future.

Listening to customers too attentively causes all ideas to be extinguished by pressure on short-term revenue and profits. The inability to apply current liking to predict future liking is the opinion of one Xerox Pare engineer. He said half-jokingly, "You can't ask customers what they want because they haven't been born yet."

2/ The managers are not suitable

It is the boss who will be the impediment to creativity if constantly pestering to ask for a report on the progress of the activity. These are the managers who dig up the seeds every week to see how the plants grow.

The problem is exacerbated when people have to respond to a detailed request from a powerful leader who knows little or nothing about technology, products, or markets. If you want to be an effective manager of your mind, trust your employees.

3/ The merchants are not suitable and show up at the wrong time

When we focus too much on money (and name), the creative quality of our work suffers. People are most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of their work, rather than by outside pressure.

After all, money is one of the main reasons people go to work. Therefore, persuading people not to think about money and only to work may not always be practical. However, in a company with a fair salary system, most people have interesting jobs. Herrigel wrote in "Zen in the Art of Archery" that, if one focuses on the joy attached to the bowstring, it is more important to put the arrow in the bow, draw the bow, and shoot the arrow. If we hit the target, we'll enjoy it in two ways: we'll have more fun working and we'll also be more likely to hit the target.

Chapter 13: Don't try to learn anything from people who say they've solved your problems

Those who do not grasp the principles of things will not be blinded by existing dogmas. They will see what others don't. There are two main ways to take advantage of naivety.

The first way is to find people who are new to the profession, inexperienced, young and naive, who lack not only knowledge of the problem to be solved but also knowledge of related fields. Or the middle way is to hire people who are well-trained in a certain field, but have not been caught up in old, outdated practices.

A second way to capitalize on naivety is to find people who aren't in the same industry, but whose expertise in another area allows them to see your problem and possibly solve it from a new perspective.

A more moderate form is bringing together groups or companies whose people are trying to solve the same problem, but in different groups, industries or places.

Another variation of this strategy is that if people with the “right” skills and experience keep failing to solve the problem, see if people with the “wrong” skills can solve the problem. Are not. New perspectives can help them find solutions.

Chapter 14: Forget the past, especially the successes in the company

Harvard psychology researchers show that the way the brain works makes us more inclined to repeat what we have done in the past, especially when it is successful.

People who rely on outdated methods and technology are often those with power in the company because past successes have enabled them to gain that power. Furthermore, outdated ways of doing things continue to exist because people have become adept at doing it that way. James March calls this the “success trap”.

The trap of success leads to inefficiencies, stifling creativity. More and more they are stuck in their own glorious past, as in the case of Kodak studios, Smith Corona's typewriter company, Swiss watch group SSI.H...

Conventional ways to forget past success

The most common way out of the successful past is to start a new company, or at least a new business unit that is not dependent on the parent company. This new entity ignores, defies and goes against the standards of the parent company.

If it is not possible to start a new company or new business, another popular way is to start or join a revolution. Annette Kyle's small revolution with 55 employees at the Bayport Terminal has been successful, making Bayport operations superior, more efficient, and more profitable.

If you want people unaffected by the past, you can hire and shelter a few slow learners into your company. One of the most powerful ways to do this is to regularly separate employees from what they are good at, and assign them tasks they don't have the right skills to do and don't feel comfortable with.

Another technique is to regularly disband and reorganize workgroups. To break away from the past, another strange idea is to apply the principle of randomness to choosing solutions and making decisions. The final way is to encourage employees to do new things by going back to doing very old things. The past cannot be changed, but the possibilities for interpreting the meaning of the past for the present are limitless.

Part III – Weird idea application

Chapter 15: Building companies where creativity is a way of life

The key to the success of a company leader is to be humble in front of people full of talent and creativity, by allowing them to thrive and then letting them go. The best management is to manage nothing.

Creativity is not about discovering new ideas but offering them. The value of creativity is only accepted when it convinces the right people. The solicitation is not the sale of an idea, but the sale of one's own commitments, beliefs, and views. Venture capitalist Arthur Rock says, “I often see the difference between people with passion at heart and those who see their ideas as a way to get rich.”

A good rule of thumb is that creativity requires both flexibility and rigor, meaning that the solution or problem stays the same and changes the other elements.

When people argue about your ideas, you feel uncomfortable, unhappy, uncomfortable. But you should understand that, if everyone likes and compliments, maybe your idea is not very unique. So discomfort also plays a big part in creativity.

Some leaders of famous companies like Intel, Cisco, Nokia always warn that, just because everything is going well doesn't mean everything will continue to be fine. A new technology will bring their technology or business model back to the garden.

When we conceive an idea, we believe that everything is going to be great, that everything is possible. But then we become skeptics when deciding what to grow and what to stop. Once you choose an idea to implement, trust rises again.

Quirky ideas have a solid foundation, but it takes a bit of skepticism to get the best out of them. After all, anything that brings in new knowledge, helps us see old things in a new way, and helps a company break free of the past is fine.