Imagine you’re as wealthy as, say, Bill Gates or Sam Walton or ancient (and also fabulously wealthy) King Croesus—the first person to mint gold and silver coins. Now imagine one of these moneyed folks coming upon a problem.

How would he approach a solution? Companies often explore solutions through the eyes of customers. But Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, authors of “Why Not? How To Use Everyday Ingenuity To Solve Problems Big And Small”—say it can be just as effective to view problems through the eyes of just one hypothetical customer

—one with vast resources of connections, money or time.

Once you dream up what will undoubtedly be an expensive solution, you need to figure a way to make it practical and affordable. Is there a way to automate or standardize the custom solution? Such an approach gives you the advantage of a fresh and unique viewpoint. And asking, “What would Croesus do (WWCD)?” pushes you to think expansively. Further, simply realizing a solution (albeit costly) exists can give you confidence to explore alternatives. Adapting, modifying, standardizing and automating a WWCD answer is often far easier than coming up with the solution from scratch.

Darwin Magazine Nov 2003