June 06, 2014

Square Watermelon

Square watermelons are easier to ship. Credit: Rumpleteaser / Flickr Creative Commons


Take anything, either an existing product or just an idea, and flip it around…180 degrees.

According to Yale professors Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, authors of Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small, flipping ideas can provide unexpected - and profitable - solutions.

Energy drinks, for example, are designed to keep people awake.  So what’s the opposite of an energy drink?

“You now have Dreamwater and Sleepwater and those are over a hundred million dollar sales companies,” explains Nalebuff.

Sounds simple, but aren’t there limits to this kind of thinking?

While flipping things doesn’t always result in a great idea, Ayres believes “it’s often a plausible, new idea and the first step is that we have flips around us that we’ve never thought of.”

This approach has potential for every field, not just business. Take education, for example.

“When a professor asks a question, raising your hand could indicate that you don’t want to answer the question.” Both Nalebuff and Ayres have used this strategy in their classes and say emphatically that it works.

“It is true that shy students participate a lot more,” says Ayres. Nalebuff adds, “Who do you want to penalize?  So the idea that you’re not prepared, requires you to raise your hand, seems a much better approach than, ‘oh, I can try to hide…’”

So, the next time you head to class, the office, or the store, think: could this experience be radically different? And then, when you start to dismiss your crazy idea, ask: why not?

Education, Barry Nalebuff, Culture, status quo, Ian Ayres

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