From the December 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Want the next great idea in business to be yours? Put together a team of people with differing ideas, viewpoints and experiences. Consultant Frans Johansson studied successful idea-generators from business, science, the arts and elsewhere and found that cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary combinations were far more effective at producing revolutionary insights than lone inventors or groups of people with like backgrounds.

In The Medici Effect (HBS Press, $24.95) Johansson expands on this observation by showing how to overcome problems and improve the results of idea-generating campaigns. To expand the range of your ideas, for example, try assumption reversal: Start with a fact about a business, and reverse it. Do all restaurants have menus? Assume that your restaurant has no menus, and see where it leads you. The book's title is inspired by the Renaissance-era Italian family that sponsored Leonardo da Vinci. If you can't read it and come up with at least a minor Mona Lisa or two, you're not trying.

East Meets West

Millions have read sun tzu's classic, The Art of War, but do exceptional companies really practice its strategies? In The Art of Business (Zero Time, $19.95), University of Texas, Austin, researcher Raymond T. Yeh finds that luminaries such as Dell, Intel, Medtronics and Southwest Airlines have done so and, in the process, created a new art of business that merges Eastern and Western concepts. For example, he says, their Western-style mission statements also contain their organizational Tao-a Zen Buddhist concept, which, in this context, Yeh says, consists of a company's vision, purpose and values. This isn't the easiest book to read, but those who make it through won't be quite the same when they've finished.


Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Smart Moves" columnist.