After my last post, I got several inquires about the complete list of weird ideas that work, from my 2002 book, Weird Ideas That Work. I have a soft spot for this book, perhaps because it was the first book I wrote myself, and also because it resulted from a talk that I gave for six or seven years before I wrote it up. I can still see – in my minds-eye – all the reactions that audiences had to the ideas as I developed them, the excitement in some cases, the boredom in other cases, the disdain for the most absurd, and the fantastic arguments that people had with me and each other.
As I’ve said before, my aim is not to be RIGHT at all times but to get people to THINK, and when I am successful, this book – and the talk that goes with it -- does that. In other words these are strong (and evidence-based) opinions, weakly held.
I picked ideas that would – from logical standpoint – increase the range of ideas (or variance) in a company, that would enable people to see things differently, and break from the past. I also emphasized that increasing variance and the like is great if you want creativity (say developing a new product or service) and awful if you want to do something tried and true (say building or flying a 747). There is a Harvard Business Review article called the Weird Rules of Creativity you can buy if you are interested (although it costs about half of the whole book), but if you want free stuff, check out my interview on tompeters.com, download this article from the Ivey Business Journal, or see Polly LaBarre’s Fast Company article.
Two quick points.
First, I don’t necessarily believe any of these ideas. Well, except number 7. BUT I can marshal a pretty strong conceptual and empirical case for each and give you examples of creative companies and teams that use each one.
Second, creativity happens when an organization, through some means, brings in varied ideas, sees the same old things in new ways, and breaks from the past. These are just some ways to make it happen; they may help you or may not work in your organization at all. My suggestion is not to view them as a recipe, but as a menu. I suspect that if you tried to do all of these in one organization, it would be nightmare. Like eating the entire menu instead of meal at restaurant, it will make your organization sick. But there might be four or five that will work for you, at least for the places, people, and periods when you need creativity.
Here is the list (note I say 11.5, but there are really 12)
1. Hire slow learners (of the organizational code).
1 ½. Hire people who make you feel uncomfortable, even those you dislike.
2. Hire people you (probably) don’t need.
3. Use job interviews to get new ideas, not to screen candidates.
4. Encourage people to ignore and defy superiors and peers.
5. Find some happy people, and get them to fight.
6. Reward success and
failure, punish inaction.
7. Decide to do something that will probably fail, then convince yourself and everyone else that success is certain.
8. Think of some ridiculous or impractical things to do, and then plan to do them.
9. Avoid, distract, and bore customers, critics, and anyone who just wants to talk about money.
10. Don’t try to learn anything from people who seem to have solve the problem you face.
11. Forget the past, especially your company’s successes.
Finally, as a summary, if you look at these, a reasonable conclusion is that, although creative places can be a lot of fun at times and being happy is linked to creativity (sort of, I’ll explain in a later post), note also that Creative companies and teams are inefficient (and often annoying) places to work.