Vinod's Blog
Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 10:32 PM Permanent link for Why Not?
Why Not?

I know I emphatically stated in my review of Tipping Point that most business books are junk but for some reason that didn't stop me from buying Why Not? when I browsed it at an airport bookstore.   It's ostensible goal is to present a structured framework for using "everyday ingenuity to sovle prolems big and small".    Sounds interesting, huh?  Only moderately. The book was extremely mediocre.  

What would Croesus do? -- if you had all the resources in the world to solve a problem completely, how would you do it?   Ok, now, if you had far fewer resources but only had to solve 80% of the problem, is there a solution there?   How about a solution that solves 80% of the problem for a particular market segment?  For example, back in the day, rich people had personal assistants to answer their calls, take notes, pick up the dry cleaning, etc.    Now we've got answer machines that, well, answer calls.

Why don't you feel my pain?-- What are the spillover benefits / costs that one party is creating upon another?   How do we internalize these externalities into a broader system?  The authors appear to have rediscovered the Coase Theorem.

Where else would it work? -- A solution to one problem could be a solution to an entirely different one. [p 30] one starts by saying, "Kids really need a scooter that spins more easily."   Instead, they might say, "The polycarbonate wheel has revolutionized roller skates and rolling luggage.   Are there any other products that might be improved?"  Voila!  The Razor scooter. 

Would flipping it work? -- if you flip the rules of the game, would the system work better?   For ex., instead of signing up to become an organ donor when you get your license, how about having to sign up to opt out of organ donation instead?

A few other little gems are scattered here and there throughout the book [here's one - [p 45] looking at the way consumers misuse a product can suggest a new problem along with a solution].On the plus side, the book's a very quick read and some of the side anecdotes are entertaining....but really not enough to justify going out buying it.

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