From the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Why not have telephone solicitors pay us to listen? Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres wonder about this and other potential innovations in Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small (Harvard Business School Press, $27.50). If you like that idea, listen to Yale professors Nalebuff (economics) and Ayres (law) on the value of intelligent optimism-seeing the world not as it is but as it could be, and then channeling that perspective into workable business initiatives. That's how they came up with the pay-to-listen concept, which they think might appeal to oft-ignored telemarketers as well as oft-interrupted consumers.

You can be inventive, they say, by employing four questions: 1) What would King Croesus do? In other words, how would you handle a problem if you had unlimited resources? 2) Why don't you feel my pain? Search your company for incentives that unintentionally encourage people to make bad decisions-and develop better ones. 3) Where else would it work? This suggests transplanting successful ideas from one sphere to another. 4) Would flipping it around work? Try things the other way around. One literal example: flat-topped bottles that use gravity to make ketchup easier to pour.

-M.H.

Now Hear This
All entrepreneurs face the challenge of getting noticed in a crowed marketplace. Marketers Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval share their solution in Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World (Doubleday, $24.95). What it takes, according to the co-founders of the advertising agency The Kaplan Thaler Group Ltd., is a "Big Bang"-something "that bucks conventional wisdom and stops people in their tracks."

They offer their own idea of using a quacking duck in ads for AFLAC, a supplemental insurance provider that suffered from poor name-recognition. They explain how they came up with this and similar Big Bangs. One recurring strategy is compression: Pack staff, time and space tightly, they advise, because crowding stirs up ideas. And encourage employees to bring emotional baggage to work; otherwise, they won't be emotionally engaged in their jobs.

-D.N.

Barry J. Nalebuff, Ian Ayres

by Linda Kaplan Thaler

Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Smart Moves" columnist. Don Nichols is a freelance editor and writer in Dallas.