Synopses & Reviews
Creativity, new ideas, innovation -- in any age they are keys to success, but in today's whirlwind economy they are essential for survival itself. Yet, as Robert Sutton explains, the standard rules of business behavior and management are precisely the opposite of what it takes to build an innovative company. We are told to hire people who will fit in; to train them extensively; and to work to instill a corporate culture in every employee. In fact, in order to foster creativity, we should hire misfits, goad them to fight, and pay them to defy convention and undermine the prevailing culture. Weird Ideas That Work
codifies these and other proven counterintuitive ideas to help you turn your workplace from staid and safe to wild and woolly -- and creative.
Stanford professor Robert Sutton is an authority on innovation and a popular speaker. In Weird Ideas That Work he draws on extensive research in behavioral psychology to explain how innovation can be fostered in hiring, managing, and motivating people; building teams; making decisions; and interacting with outsiders. Business practices like "hire people who make you uncomfortable," "reward success and failure, but punish inaction," and "decide to do something that will probably fail, and then convince yourself and everyone else that success is certain" strike many managers as strange or even downright wrong. Yet Weird Ideas That Work shows how some of the best teams and companies use these and other counterintuitive practices to crank out new ideas, and it demonstrates that every company can reap sales and profits from such creativity.
Weird Ideas That Work is filled with examples of each of Sutton's 11 1/2 practices, drawn from hi- and low-tech industries, manufacturing and services, information and products. More than just a set of bizarre suggestions, it represents a breakthrough in management thinking: Sutton shows that the practices we need to sustain performance are in constant tension with those that foster new ideas. The trick is to choose the right balance between conventional and "weird" -- and now, thanks to Robert Sutton's work, we have the tools we need to do so.
G. John Pizzey group president of Alcoa Primary Products Harnessing the power of the individual is the essence of management. Bob Sutton's book challenges us with the ideas that can free us from rigid cultures that suppress this force.
John Seely Brown co-author of The Social Life of Information and director of Xerox PARC from 1990 to 2000 This is a delightful and evocative book. After reading it the only thing that will look really weird is much of current management theory and existing human resource management practices.
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.
Ginger Graham group chairman of Guidant Corporation These ideas may be weird, but they work! We hire people with unusual skills, turn the organizational structure on its head, listen to those other than our best customers, and put people in jobs for which they aren't trained. We replace our product line every nine to fifteen months, and can't afford to listen to all the reasons these weird ideas won't work. Sutton challenges traditional management practices at a time we all need to think anew.
"Stanford professor Robert Sutton is a unique voice with an urgent message about how to generate and capitalize on new ideas."
-- Fast Company
"One of the best business books of the year."
-- Harvard Business Review
Gary Hamel author of Leading the Revolution and chairman of Strategos Weird Ideas That Work starts with a very smart analysis of why so many leaders say they want innovation, but unwittingly perpetuate the very prejudices and dogmas that strangle breakout thinking and radical doing. Sutton offers first-class advice on how to build a company where innovation is a way of life. If you ignore the essential practices advocated in this lively and well-researched book, you'll do so at your peril.
David Kelley founder and chairman of IDEO When I heard Sutton's weird ideas for the first time, I thought he was really nuts. Then, I started trying some of them around our firm, like hiring people who don't fit in so that they'll bring new ideas and encouraging people to disagree with me and with the company norms. Many of Sutton's weird ideas are now standard practice around here. They help us be more innovative and come up with better ideas. I find Professor Sutton's ideas to be unique and surprisingly useful.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 207-223) and index.
About the Author
Robert I. Sutton
is professor of management science and engineering at the Stanford Engineering School, where he is the co-director of the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization and an active researcher in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. The author of more than seventy articles and chapters in scholarly and applied publications, and co-author of The Knowing-Doing Gap,
he lives in Menlo Park, California.
Table of Contents
PART I: WHY THE WEIRD IDEAS WORK
- Why These Ideas Work, but Seem Weird
- What Is Creativity, Anyway?
PART II: THE WEIRD IDEAS
- Hire "Slow Learners" (of the Organizational Code) (Weird Idea #1)
- Hire People Who Make You Uncomfortable, Even Those You Dislike (Weird Idea #1 1/2)
- Hire People You (Probably) Don't Need (Weird Idea #2)
- Use Job Interviews to Get Ideas, Not to Screen Candidates (Weird Idea #3)
- Encourage People to Ignore and Defy Superiors and Peers (Weird Idea #4)
- Find Some Happy People and Get Them to Fight (Weird Idea #5)
- Reward Success and Failure, Punish Inaction (Weird Idea #6)
- Decide to Do Something That Will Probably Fail, Then Convince Yourself and Everyone Else That Success Is Certain (Weird Idea #7)
- Think of Some Ridiculous or Impractical Things to Do, Then Plan to Do Them (Weird Idea #8)
- Avoid, Distract, and Bore Customers, Critics, and Anyone Who Just Wants to Talk About Money (Weird Idea #9)
- Don't Try to Learn Anything from People Who Seem to Have Solved the Problems You Face (Weird Idea #10)
- Forget the Past, Especially Your Company's Successes (Weird Idea #11)
PART III: PUTTING THE WEIRD IDEAS TO WORK
- Building Companies Where Innovation Is a Way of Life