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ALIEN Thinking summary

Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux and Michael Wade

The Unconventional Path to Breakthrough Ideas

4 (170 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

ALIEN Thinking is a guide to developing innovative ideas by adopting an outsider's perspective. Insights from diverse fields can inspire new solutions in your own. Written by Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux and Michael Wade.

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    ALIEN Thinking
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    Approach problems with fresh eyes.

    India was facing a problem, and it wasn’t proving easy to solve: in the end, it all came down to numbers. 

    The country was using far more groundwater than it could afford to. But where, exactly, was the water going? And what was it being used for? That was the question Narayana Peesapaty asked himself.

    The answer was simple, as it turned out. Thanks to government subsidies, Indian farmers paid next to nothing for electricity – meaning that there was no real reason for them to turn their water pumps off. More water led to greater yields of rice, and water was cheap, so it made little sense for them to try to use less.

    So what could be done about the groundwater shortage? How could Peesapaty resolve this enduring problem?

    This is the key message: Approach problems with fresh eyes.

    What Peesapaty did was to look at the problem in a new way. He realized that the key reason farmers were using so much water was that it increased their yields of rice. 

    Anyone else would have lobbied the government to promote less demanding crops like millet – but not Peesapaty. He recognized that the market had created this issue, and he was determined to make the market solve it.

    After nine years, Peesapaty found a way of turning millet into cutlery that could be eaten at the end of a meal; instead of just trying to encourage farmers to grow millet instead of rice, he had actively incentivized growing millet by developing a marketable new product.

    What distinguished Peesapaty’s approach was the freshness of his vision. So how can the rest of us, whose insights have been dulled by weekly meetings and daily routines, cultivate this ability to pay fresh, renewed attention to existing problems?

    There are a couple of strategies. One of the most important things we can do is to approach the problem from multiple angles. After all, Peesapaty only came to fully understand India’s water and rice problem when he traveled around, meeting farmers and trying to understand their predicaments.

    In an established firm rather than a start-up, this might mean paying attention to your most innovative and “extreme” customers. IKEA’s designers, inspired by their creative and dedicated customers, often take part in furniture hackathons – striving to create the best new products out of existing pieces.

    The insights they glean from these sessions are a key factor in the fresh attention they bring to IKEA’S offerings season after season.

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    What is ALIEN Thinking about?

    Alien Thinking (2021) is a simple guide to having great ideas. Rather than simply waiting for inspiration to strike, it lays out five key skills that enable anyone to innovate on demand.

    ALIEN Thinking Review

    ALIEN Thinking (2021) explores unconventional strategies used by successful innovators to solve complex problems and drive innovation. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with practical tips and techniques, it empowers readers to think differently and come up with groundbreaking ideas.
    • Combining real-life case studies, research, and interviews with industry experts, it offers valuable insights and inspiration for anyone looking to innovate.
    • Its thought-provoking approach challenges conventional thinking and encourages readers to explore new possibilities, making it a captivating and stimulating read.

    Best quote from ALIEN Thinking

    To overcome the conditioning that values memorization over discovery, you need techniques that promote and revitalize your imagination.

    —Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux and Michael Wade
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    Who should read ALIEN Thinking?

    • Disruptors hungry for new ideas
    • Business leaders eager to cultivate innovation
    • Anyone who wants more eureka moments in their lives

    About the Author

    Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade are professors of innovation and strategy at the Institute of Management Development in Switzerland. Together, they have collaborated with dozens of corporations, start-ups, and state agencies, helping them to generate and implement the ideas they need to succeed.

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    ALIEN Thinking FAQs 

    What is the main message of ALIEN Thinking?

    The main message of ALIEN Thinking is to challenge traditional assumptions and adopt a more innovative mindset.

    How long does it take to read ALIEN Thinking?

    The reading time for ALIEN Thinking varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is ALIEN Thinking a good book? Is it worth reading?

    ALIEN Thinking is a valuable read. It offers insights on how to think differently and unlock innovative solutions.

    Who is the author of ALIEN Thinking?

    The authors of ALIEN Thinking are Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade.

    What to read after ALIEN Thinking?

    If you're wondering what to read next after ALIEN Thinking, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Plays Well with Others by Eric Barker
    • 12 Rules For Life by Jordan B. Peterson
    • The Age of AI by Henry Kissinger
    • The Art of Laziness by Library Mindset
    • How Highly Effective People Speak by Peter Andrei
    • The Six Disciplines of Strategic Thinking by Michael D. Watkins
    • Unlearn by Barry O’Reilly