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Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company Paperback – 15 May 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (15 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743227883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743227889
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,080,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Christopher E. Bangle director of design at BMW Group "Weird Ideas That Work" embraces the counterintuitive secrets that successful designers use at BMW and elsewhere, and Bob Sutton brings them to life in a way that anyone who manages innovation can use. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 May 2004
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 or The Innovator's Solution.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 29 reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Balancing Organizational Creativity and Productivity 30 Oct. 2001
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
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.
(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!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
More unorthodox than weird, but vibrant and smart 2 Jan. 2003
By Max More - Published on Amazon.com
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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An inspiring book whose ideas will be referenced often 3 Nov. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
After You Read This Book, Challenge Every Idea in It 21 Mar. 2002
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
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....Playfulness and curiosity are related attitudes of innovation [in combination with] the ability to switch emotional gears between cynicism and belief, or between deep doubt and unshakable confidence." If you take Sutton's admonitions to heart, challenge all of his ideas as well as everyone else's ideas and come up with more innovative ones of your own. Throughout the 15 chapters which comprise this book, he carefully prepares his reader to do just that.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Weird can be really good 1 Nov. 2001
By Sheri Singer, TV Movie Producer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a very user friendly read, unlike many management books that are dense and require a second or third reading to get the point. Sutton draws the reader in from page one. His list of "weird ideas that work" will stimulate your imagination. Agree or disagree, you will want to read on. This very well-researched book challenges people to drop their preconceived notions of management in order to strive for real innovation. In plain English,the author articulates the three basic principles for innovative work, and explains how, without meaning to, many managers get in their own way. His real world examples are lively and relatable. The structure of the chapters makes it a breezy, enjoyable way to pick up new ideas immediately. My personal favorite is weird idea #5--"FIND SOME HAPPY PEOPLE AND GET THEM TO FIGHT." The idea that conflict is essential to innovation and growth may appear counterproductive, but Sutton makes a compelling case for why it could be the difference between success and failure for a company. I highly recommend this book for anyone in any field who wants to inspire breakthrough creativity and real innovation.
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