Serving as a member of California's top court, Charles W. McCoy Jr. is a celebrated judge of, among others, a recent case in which he reduced by $2.9 billion the $3 billion award a jury had ordered tobacco company Philip Morris to pay a sick smoker. Tough decision, right? No harder than those many businesses face every day, argues McCoy in Why Didn't I Think of That? (Prentice Hall Press, $22), an exploration of how to come up with unexpected answers to tough questions. To illuminate his techniques, McCoy produces examples ranging from the strategy Intel used to overtake Motorola to an experiment he employs to persuade law students to trust their intuitions.
The book is full of innovative-thinking exercises, checklists, anecdotes, challenges, puzzles and more. For instance, to sharpen your perceptive powers, McCoy recommends taking a series of objects ranging from pencils to people and describing each in every way you can think of, including shape, texture, color, function and so on. This is an engagingly ground-level approach to a topic with more than its share of highfalutin gurus. And it's something anyone can use to help think of that one idea that could make all the difference.
Entrepreneurs today must personalize their approach to customers or face serious challenges from competitors that do, says personalization and privacy expert Bruce Kasanoff in his book Making It Personal (Perseus Publishing, $26). The arena of personalization and privacy is fraught with technical complexity, ethical uncertainty and still-evolving legal oversight. Kasanoff suggests tackling it by first trying to understand what consumers fear about sharing their information. Next, anticipate new laws, which Kasanoff does with a good overview of looming legal issues. Then ask what personalization can do for your company. Finally, he advocates carefully examining possible consequences of collecting customer data and drawing tight boundaries around what you will do.
Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks has covered business and technology for leading publications since 1981.