How to use everyday ingenuity to solve problems big and

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How to Use Everyday Ingenuity

to Solve Problems Big and Small Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres

Harvard Business School Press Boston, Massachusetts

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Copyright 2003 Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America 07 06 05 04 03 5 4 3 2 1 All cartoons reprinted courtesy of Kiva Sutton. Page 32, courtesy of Marc Zak, author of Spin Pop: Interactive Candy Toys

(Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2002). Page 82, transcript courtesy of Registrar's Office, Indiana University. Page 93, ? Canada Post Corporation, 2000. Reproduced with permission.

Author photograph by Steven Boljonis, reprinted courtesy of Steven Boljonis and Forbes magazine. Page 115, Tree Logic photo courtesy of Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts. Page 117, courtesy of Heinz North America. Page 204, photograph by Barry Nalebuff. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Requests for permission should be directed to, or mailed to Permissions, Harvard Business School Publishing, 60 Harvard Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02163. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Nalebuff, Barry, 1958?

Why not? : how to use everyday ingenuity to solve problems big and small / Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres.

p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-59139-153-9 (alk. paper) 1. Problem solving. I. Ayres, Ian. II. Title. HD30.29.N35 2003 153.4'3--dc21

2003010767 The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives Z39.48-1992.

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To Helen and Jennifer, who politely suggested that we put our modest proposals into a book-- and then lock that book away in a drawer.

We followed half their advice.

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Preface: Why Why Not?


1 The Way Things Never Were


2 Good Ideas and How to Generate Them


Problems in Search of Solutions

3 What Would Croesus Do?


Taking the Perspective of an Unconstrained Consumer

4 Why Don't You Feel My Pain?


Internalizing the External Effects of Decision Making

Solutions in Search of Problems

5 Where Else Would It Work?


Look for Idea Arbitrage

6 Would Flipping It Work?


Trying Things the Other Way Around

Problem Solving with a Purpose

7 Principled Problem Solving


A Guide to Thinking Inside the Box

8 The Case for Honest Tea


9 Reinventing Regulation


10 Implementing Why-Not






Further Reading




Expanded Table of Contents


About the Authors


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The Way Things Never Were

Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"

--Robert F. Kennedy, after George Bernard Shaw

A Wake-up Call

The phone jolts you from a deep sleep at 2:00 a.m. Not only does it wake you up, but the high-pitched squeal in your ear tells you that it's a fax machine that has dialed your phone by mistake. And you can bet that the fax will automatically redial your number every five minutes. What can you do?

Think of all the ways that you could solve this problem. No, that's not a rhetorical question--we really want you to think of some solutions. We know it's not the world's most pressing problem, but we've just started. Let's see how much we can do without any formal training.

Start with simple solutions that don't require any new products or services. Write them down. Then figure out what is wrong with these answers and how you might overcome these problems.

When you've done that, then see if you can figure out a way to solve the problem before it happens again. How could you prevent future wrong numbers from waking you up at night? Take some time to think these questions through before you read on.

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