How to have Kick-Ass Ideas

Reviewed by: 
Chris Baréz-Brown
Harper Element
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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Why is it that so many business books have dreary titles and boring-looking covers?  A few weeks ago I was confronted by pile of unread books that met this criteria perfectly.  I was shuffling through them to select a book to review fro this newsletter when one stood out as being different.  It had bright orange writing on a silver background with a picture of a naked man leaping in the air!  The book was called “How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas”.

At this point I should declare an interest as, although I didn’t realise it when I first chose the book, it is written by Chris Baréz-Brown, the husband of Anna who was once a regular contributor to the Soundbite column.

Chris is Head of Training at ?What If!, the world’s largest independent innovation company and an organisation that has regularly featured in the top 10 of the annual Best Places to Work competition – which is another reason to read the book.
The book provides a mixture of ideas, suggestions and coaching tips to help people be more creative and achieve their goals and ambitions.  While this may sound like a lot to take on, it is not really as the book simply helps guide people to ways in which they can unleash more of their potential.  If you look at the reasons why some people seem to achieve fantastic things in their lives while others don’t, the differences are rarely things such as luck, money, education or intelligence.  The real difference is determination and the confidence to “have a go”.

The book begins by describing some of the things that motivated Chris to give up a successful career in the brewing industry for a complete change.  I believe the purpose of this is to get the message across that if he can achieve his goals, then so can you.

The rest of the book is then devoted to looking at the techniques Chris advocates for getting people to find innovative solutions to the challenges they face.  To illustrate the various points, the book makes frequent reference examples of challenges that have been faced by different organisations and the solutions they came up with.

One of the key points that emerges from the book, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with, is that to be creative people need to break our of the routine of their every-day lives.  The reason is that so much of what we do is driven by habits that we need to break out of the routine if we are to view the world differently.  One of the stories from the book that illustrates this point brilliantly is about a girl who was being taught how to bake a cake by her mother.  Once it was baked her mother cut the two ends off the cake and threw them in the bin.  Intrigued, she asked why she had done this.  Her mum replied that it is how her grandmother had taught her.  So the girl phoned her grandmother to ask her why she had taught her mother to do this.  She laughed and replied that it was because her baking tin was larger than her cake tin so, to fit the cake in, she needed to cut the ends off.  Her mother had simply followed what she had seen unquestioningly for years.

If you think the cake story is a little extreme, just take time to think about all the things that you do every work-day that are routine – set the alarm for the same time, get out of bed the same side, eat the same things for breakfast, leave the house at the same time, walk the same way to the car that is parked in the same place etc.  By the time you get to work you will have done so many “same” things that it is difficult to have innovative ideas and be creative.

If you see the point and would like to find ways to “break the mould”, buy the book – it’s a useful and fun read.

Click here if you would like to purchase a copy of this book.