This is a book about some of the best ideas used in business. Some are simple—sometimes almost embarrassingly so—while others are based on detailed research and brilliant intellect. Most are perennial, as their logic, simplicity, or value will help them endure; while others are, to be honest, rather faddy. What unites these business ideas is their proven power and potency. They are not only insightful and useful, they have worked: often in a brilliant way or despite great adversity. The ability of the people who conceived and applied these ideas should be applauded. One word of warning: while these ideas have worked for the companies mentioned at the time they applied them, it is not to say that these businesses will always get everything else right, forever more. They produced a result at the time, but if this book has any general lessons it is that new ideas and energy are needed constantly—in many ways and at varying times—to ensure success. While these ideas are varied and, I hope, interesting and thought-provoking, it seems to me that there are several different themes that run through many of these ideas and the businesses that use them. These include a willingness to experiment and take a risk. This seems to happen because many of the businesses display energy and entrepreneurship—a restless desire to do well and stay ahead of the competition. This is often coupled with an ability to understand the root causes of an issue, opportunity, or challenge, and do something distinctive, rather than merely tinkering with the status quo. Simplicity and an understanding of the need to be practical and implement the idea are also common features. Some ideas, however, do result from extensive study and research. This seems to confirm Peter Drucker’s point that great ideas and decisions are a blend of rigorous analysis and intuition. Clearly, sometimes one aspect is more important (depending on the idea), but both are significant. Finally, the need to be practical, follow through, and ensure success is shown by the recurring need to monitor, measure, and refine the way the idea works. A word of guidance: if you are thinking of applying these ideas in your organization it may help to understand a little of the way that ideas are transmitted. Ideas tend to be passed on either by “blueprint copying,” which takes the whole idea and all its details and then replicates it elsewhere, or by “idea stimulation,” where the details are unknown or adapted but the gist of the idea is applied. For example, in his excellent award-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel: A History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years, Jared Diamond cites the development of an alphabet as an idea that arose independently probably only once and was then copied elsewhere. Of course, these techniques are opposite ends of a spectrum, but, of the two methods, idea stimulation is surely more adaptable, robust, and likely to succeed. So, use these ideas to stimulate your thinking and make the specific adjustments needed to ensure success in your situation. I hope that these ideas will provide you with the inspiration to find out more or develop your thinking along new, creative lines, generating brilliant ideas for the future.
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