The Four Workarounds

What is the connection between illegal logging in Brazil, caste discrimination in India and childhood diarrhoea in sub-Saharan Africa? The answer is that these are problems that have all been addressed through workarounds, solutions that ignore or even challenge conventions about how, and / or by whom, a problem is supposed to be solved.

"The Four Workarounds: Strategies from the World's Scrappiest Organizations for Tackling Complex Problems" uses real-world examples of smart, unconventional workarounds to highlight how unconventional approaches to problem-solving can often deliver unexpectedly successful results.

Author Paulo Savaget is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Science and Said Business School at the University of Oxford. Through his research around sustainable development, systems change and innovation management, he has identified four workarounds that what he terms "scrappy organizations" - groups operating from the fringes of power - often employ with great success. These are the piggyback, the loophole, the roundabout, and the next best. And as his examples highlight, this sort of disruptive thinking has the potential to achieve massive wins with minimal resources.

The message, of course, is that these same disruptive ways of thinking can help large and often ponderous organisations transform the ways they operate and do business. Equally, however, they can help us as individuals to change they way we approach the challenges of every day life.