Weird Ideas That Work

By Robert Sutton, MS&E professor at Stanford. Talks about how many great ideas are surprising and even counterintuitive.


  1. Bob
    Posted November 24, 2003 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Paul Graham on making a startup remarkable–not average:

    If you do everything the way the average startup does it, you should expect average performance. The problem here is, average performance means that you’ll go out of business. The survival rate for startups is way less than fifty percent. So if you’re running a startup, you had better be doing something odd. If not, you’re in trouble.

    via Kottke’s comments on the article:

    I’ve worked for many clients and companies who did nothing so well as obsess over what their competitors were doing and how best to do exactly the same. At the same time, there was always a belief that these same competitors were stupid, lazy, slow, wrongheaded, and whatever else they could think to make themselves feel superior in comparision. This contradictory behavior has always been explained to me as careful analysis of the competition with an eye toward borrowing the best and discarding the rest. But it seems to me to be a strategy based on fear and won’t get you very far, relatively speaking.

  2. Bob
    Posted December 21, 2003 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Similar to Weird Idea #8 (“Think Of Some Ridiculous Or Impractical Things To Do, And Then Plan To Do Them”), Seth Godin talks about the difference between working hard and working long:

    None of the people who are racking up amazing success stories and creating cool stuff are doing it just by working more hours than you are. And I hate to say it, but they’re not smarter than you either. They’re succeeding by doing hard work… The future is about work that’s really and truly hard, not time-consuming…It’s hard work to make difficult emotional decisions, such as quitting a job and setting out on your own. It’s hard work to invent a new system, service, or process that’s remarkable.

  3. Bob
    Posted March 7, 2004 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Cringely notes how VC’s are concentrating on the “hundred bagger” companies (“a startup that returns 100 times the initial investment”), ignoring the fact that you can’t land a big fish without losing a lot of bait:

    The goal is no longer to make a certain return, but to find a hundred bagger — something that is just about impossible to do. You can stumble on a hundred bagger, you can luck into it, but actually setting out to invest only in businesses you feel are likely to return 100X, well that pretty much means you’ll never invest again, which is the way the VC business feels right now…The problem with finding that hundred bagger is that whatever you as a VC think you are investing in isn’t what you think it is. That’s because every startup — EVERY STARTUP — faces a crisis early-on and changes dramatically what it intends to do. So the smart VC invests more in the people than in the idea because the idea is going to change. And that means what you think is a hundred bagger will inevitably turn into something else.

  4. Bob
    Posted August 18, 2004 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Many-to-Many: Hacking vs. Research – Howard Rheingold on letting lots of kids do your testing, waiting for a “hundred-bagger”.

    HR: If I was a Nokia or a Hewlett-Packard, I would take a fraction of what I’m spending on those buildings full of expensive people and give out a whole bunch of prototypes to a whole bunch of 15-year-olds and have contracts with them where you can observe their behavior in an ethical way and enable them to suggest innovations, and give them some reasonable small reward for that. And once in a while, you’re going to make a billion dollars off it.

    Business Week: A focus group on steroids.

    HR: This would be more like ethnography, where you let them loose and watch what they do. If you want to think out of the box about innovation, let’s not put all of our bets on 50-year-old PhDs in laboratories. We now have dispersed the means of individual and collective innovation throughout the world…