On Why Not?

I recently finished reading Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres.

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 somehow reserved for the experts – that the techniques for innovation are beyond the capacity of the typical person. Baloney. Innovation is a skill that can be taught. And what’s more, the potential for innovation is all around us. The problem is that the sense of innovation as everyday ingenuity often gets lost in our high-tech world. That is a problem we aim to fix with this book.”

2- “Most “original” ideas aren’t completely original, but instead are the result of two basic methods for generating ideas: problems in search of solutions and solutions in search of problems. People usually think of problem solving as a search for solutions. But in everything we do, we look for symmetries. Thus, we also see that problem solving can be a search for problems once you’ve found a good solution. Both approaches have their advantages.”

3- “What would Croesus do? Why Don’t you feel my pain? Where else would it work? Would flipping it work?…We have now introduced four central idea-generating tools: WWCD, internalization, translation, and symmetry…Now, you might be asking, are these the only tools out there for generating ideas? The answer is clearly no. There are rich theories of how scientific discoveries play out over time – incrementally adding to our knowledge through systematic and painstaking experimentation. But our why-not tools are geared toward discovering solutions that in a sense already exist but have just bot been put into effect…You need to learn different tools because some solutions can best be found with particular tools.”

4- “Principled problem solving means that you take into account the principles that any solution must satisfy. The more of these principles you can identify, the closer you are to the solution. There may be fewer options to explore, but those are the right ones to focus on…While we typically think of filters as constraints, we want to convince you that identifying the underlying attributes of any solution can be liberating and can actually help you generate ideas.”

5- “Coming up with a great idea is only the beginning of the battle. If you really want to change your company or the world, you need to sell the idea and you need others to buy in. The art of persuasion is particularly important because, and we’ve repeatedly emphasized, many ideas for great new products or services are not great ideas to start new businesses. Sometimes – usually, in fact – the best entity to put the idea into practice will be an existing firm. Even if your idea is, objectively speaking, brilliant, you won’t necessarily have an easy time selling others on it. Be prepared to encounter remarkable levels of resistance and prejudice along the way.”


Omar Halabieh

Why Not?


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