Self Help

The Four Workarounds - Paulo Savaget

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Matheus Puppe

· 41 min read

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Here is a summary of the key points from the beginning of the book:

  • The author nearly died as an infant from severe diarrhea and malnutrition. Their parents came up with an unconventional workaround by finding young mothers to breastfeed the author alongside their own babies, which saved their life.

  • This inspired the author to study “workarounds” - improvised solutions to problems that find ways around obstacles rather than directly confronting them.

  • The author was interested in learning from “scrappy” small organizations that have outsized impacts with limited resources through innovative, unconventional methods.

  • The author became fascinated by computer hackers and their ability to creatively solve problems and crack systems with little training. This led them to study hackers and consider if their methods could be applied to social challenges.

  • Through interviews with hackers, the author learned they weave through uncharted territory and work around obstacles rather than confronting them directly. This leads to quick wins that can enable bigger change over time.

  • The author’s research evolved to study how various change makers in different fields “hack” problems through improvised workarounds to pressing issues in healthcare, education, human rights and more.

  • The passage describes four workaround methods or approaches: piggybacking, loophole, roundabout, and next best.

  • Piggybacking capitalizes on pre-existing but seemingly unrelated systems or relationships. It looks for opportunities across silos.

  • Biological examples of piggybacking include symbiotic relationships like mutualism (both benefit), commensalism (one benefits, other doesn’t), and parasitism (one benefits at the expense of the other).

  • The example given is of ColaLife, a nonprofit that piggybacked on Coca-Cola’s distribution network to get lifesaving diarrhea medicine to remote areas of Zambia that lacked healthcare access. They literally inserted packages of medicine inside Coke crates being shipped.

  • This bypassing of obstacles to healthcare access through an unrelated commercial distribution system demonstrates how piggybacking can work around systemic issues through untraditional connections across sectors.

In summary, it describes piggybacking as leveraging pre-existing relationships or systems, whether between organisms or organizations, to solve problems in novel ways despite obstacles. The ColaLife example demonstrates this workaround approach.

  • Simon and Jane Berry came up with the idea of piggybacking distribution of diarrhea treatment onto existing Coca-Cola supply chains in remote parts of Zambia. This was meant to work around obstacles like lack of infrastructure and healthcare access.

  • Diarrhea was still a major problem killing many children, as public health responses faced constraints like limited funding and infrastructure in developing countries. Private sector solutions also faced hurdles like low profitability.

  • They tested their piggyback idea through an exploratory trial distributing treatment kits between Coca-Cola bottles. This proved commensalistic, neither harming nor directly benefiting Coca-Cola.

  • Through the trial and engaging local players, they gained a deeper understanding of the complex supply chain and how to work around regulatory issues. The trial results showed significant uptake of the treatment.

  • However, they realized long-term reliance on Coca-Cola’s distribution alone was not sustainable after they leave. A more integrated mutualistic approach was needed to ensure a continuous, resilient treatment flow through different players in the value chain.

In summary, they identified diarrhea as an ongoing problem, conceived a piggyback solution to work around obstacles, tested and learned from it, but recognized a broader approach was required for lasting scale and impact.

ColaLife worked to expand access to diarrhea treatment in Zambia by piggybacking on existing distribution systems and forging mutually beneficial relationships across the supply chain. They provided support and incentives to local pharmaceutical producers, distributors, retailers and shopkeepers to ensure the medicine was affordable and widely available. ColaLife also piggybacked on larger organizations’ existing programs, like tapping into USAID’s marketing budget, to promote the treatment.

Seeing this success, Jane and Simon worked to spread this model more broadly by piggybacking onto recommendations from the World Health Organization. They successfully advocated for the WHO’s essential medicines list to specify that oral rehydration salts and zinc should be “co-packaged” together as the standard diarrhea treatment. This workaround was meant to drive government procurement policies in developing countries and exponentially increase access to the proper treatment worldwide.

The summary highlights how ColaLife expanded access to diarrhea treatment in Zambia by establishing mutually beneficial relationships across the supply chain and piggybacking on existing distribution networks and larger aid programs. It then describes how Jane and Simon further scaled this impact by piggybacking onto WHO recommendations to influence global healthcare standards and policies.

  • Piggyback commercials, where two unrelated ads would air back-to-back to share the costs, transformed TV marketing in the 1950s-60s. It allowed smaller companies access to TV ads.

  • Frequency of exposure mattered more than length for TV ads. Simple slogans and visuals would be reinforced through repetition.

  • Piggybacking continues digitally as companies target ads based on online browsing history. It helps smaller firms compete through cost-sharing.

  • Some digital piggybacking is commensalistic, like complementary products promoting each other. But advertisers risk backlash if they opportunistically piggyback on negative events, as Pepsi and American Apparel learned from attempts to promote during protests and a hurricane.

  • Piggybacking can also be parasitic if used for cybercrime like phishing or disguising malware as legitimate software to gain access to systems. Proper perception is key to avoid a commensalistic approach backfiring.

Airbnb used a “productive parasite” marketing technique by piggybacking on Craigslist to grow exponentially in the early days when it lacked marketing funds. It automatically cross-posted user listings from Airbnb to Craigslist, directing potential customers back to Airbnb. This provided free traffic and signups. While an ethically dubious tactic, it helped Airbnb gain a meaningful user base and outcompete Craigslist.

Piggybacks can have different goals - improving current practices, diversifying services, or creating new opportunities. Fortifying commonly consumed foods like salt with micronutrients is an example of improving current practices. Countries like the US saw health impacts by fortifying salt with iodine in the 1920s. Other examples of fortifying staple foods are given. Piggybacks are seen as an effective way to address “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiencies without major systemic changes to diets or industries. Both governments and companies have leveraged fortification, though companies doing so raises some ethical questions. Overall, piggybacks provide nutrients to vulnerable populations in a low-cost and practical manner.

The passage discusses how piggyback interventions can be used to both diversify existing services and create entirely new businesses.

It provides the example of M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service launched in Kenya. M-Pesa worked around traditional banking infrastructure by piggybacking on a mobile network’s system of airtime resellers. This allowed it to successfully address the needs of the unbanked population while also generating new revenue streams.

The passage then discusses how piggyback tactics can be used to create new startups that compete against industry incumbents. It briefly mentions TransferWise, a money transfer startup founded by Kristo Käärmann that leveraged existing infrastructure in a new way to provide an alternative service.

Overall, the key point is that piggybacking, or leveraging existing resources in novel combinations, provides opportunities both to expand the scope of existing businesses and create entirely new disruptive businesses by finding workarounds to challenges in the industry. Examples like M-Pesa and TransferWise are given to illustrate this.

  • A Brazilian woman named Joanna incurred credit card debt to buy necessary medicines for her husband after he had a stroke. She did not realize interest rates would be extremely high, around 875% given her low income.

  • The accumulating interest caused her relatively small initial debt to balloon to 80 times the original amount, nearly equivalent to the value of her home.

  • Caught in a debt spiral, she tried negotiating with the bank but they refused and threatened legal action. She was desperate to avoid losing her home.

  • Through a loophole, she was able to resolve her situation. Unfortunately the details of the loophole are not provided in the passage.

  • The story highlights the predatory nature of extraordinarily high interest rates on credit cards and how they can trap low-income individuals in insurmountable debt through compounding interest. Rates in Brazil far exceed even ancient codes of law on usury.

So in summary, a woman fell into catastrophic credit card debt due to medical costs and high interest, but was ultimately able to escape her dire situation through an undisclosed loophole. The passage criticizes predatory lending practices that disproportionately impact the poor.

Here is a summary of the key points about what debt could have in the long term according to the passage:

  • If left unchecked, debt can accumulate over time and spiral out of control, with interest and late fees adding up substantially. This poses significant long-term financial problems and stress for the debtor.

  • Creditors and banks have considerable legal power to collect on debt through means like wage garnishment, property liens, and asset seizure. If debts remain unpaid for long periods, this encumbrance on the debtor’s finances and assets can be very difficult to overcome.

  • High levels of long-term debt damage credit histories and credit scores, making it much harder and more expensive to take on new loans or lines of credit for important purchases like education, houses, or vehicles. Poor credit follows debtors for years.

  • Debt that is mishandled or not resolved can lead to bankruptcy, which carries its own severe long-term consequences like difficulty qualifying for future loans, employment impacts, and other challenges recovering financially for many years after.

  • The stress of living under accumulated debt and the threat of creditor enforcement actions can negatively impact a person’s mental health and well-being for extended periods if not resolved.

So in summary, unaddressed debt poses serious risks to one’s long-term financial stability, creditworthiness, asset protection, and overall well-being if left to accumulate without a solution or repayment plan. The consequences of debt can linger for many years.

  • In the US, California was the first state to allow no-fault divorce in 1969, while New York was the last in 2010. Prior to this, many couples used loopholes to obtain divorces.

  • A common loophole was traveling to Mexico to get quick divorces, which several famous couples like Elizabeth Taylor utilized. Other countries’ loopholes allowed divorces and remarriages as well.

  • Same-sex couples also took advantage of loopholes by marrying in countries where it was legal and registering the marriages in their home countries that did not allow same-sex marriage.

  • Loopholes have also been used to bypass abortion restrictions. Some examples mentioned are an organization called Women on Web that mails abortion pills to countries where abortion is illegal, and a Dutch physician named Rebecca Gomperts who developed similar methods of providing medication abortions remotely.

  • Unsafe abortions still account for numerous maternal deaths worldwide due to restrictions in many countries. Finding loopholes and workarounds has helped address this issue for some while pushing for broader legal changes.

  • Dr. Rebecca Gomperts founded Women on Waves in 1999 to provide safe abortions on ships in international waters for women from countries where abortion is illegal. As only the laws of the flagship country apply in international waters, this was a legal loophole.

  • The organization used Dutch ships and offered abortions via abortion pills to patients who boarded the ships. This helped thousands of women avoid unsafe back-alley abortions.

  • They faced pushback from conservative groups but the campaigns also raised awareness and mobilized local pro-choice movements in countries they visited.

  • After encounters with authorities in Portugal, Gomperts realized she could educate women on how to self-induce abortions using one of the pills as it was widely available.

  • She then launched Women on Web, an information website and program to mail abortion pills to women where it was illegal, using loopholes like prescriptions from Dutch doctors.

  • The organizations have helped over 100,000 women and some campaigns contributed to abortion laws changing, like legalization in Portugal a few years after their visit. Gomperts pioneered innovative, adaptable approaches working within and around existing laws and systems.

  • The passage discusses how various individuals and groups have used loopholes to share information and access resources in ways that may not strictly comply with laws or policies, but find unclear or unintended allowances.

  • It gives the example of Dr. Rebecca Gomperts using regulatory loopholes to provide abortion services remotely. It notes how she gradually expanded her mission through opportunistic loopholes.

  • Technology companies sometimes use “warrant canaries” to quietly notify users when they are legally barred from disclosing government surveillance requests. Reddit used this mechanism to inform users without directly admitting compliance.

  • Academic researchers and activists develop workarounds like #icanhazpdf to circumvent journal paywalls and share published articles. Authors also use ResearchGate to more openly distribute their work. This challenges publishers’ business models.

  • Finally, it discusses how the governor of Maranhão, Brazil creatively used his authority during the COVID pandemic to import vaccines when the federal government was resisting, saving lives through an opportunistic loophole.

In summary, the passage explores various examples where loopholes have been strategically utilized to enable information sharing, access resources, and accomplish goals in constrained regulatory environments. Both individuals and groups are shown finding creative workarounds.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the state’s healthcare system and it urgently needed ventilators. The state government had secured $3 million in private donations but faced obstacles procuring ventilators from China.

  • The governor and local businesses devised a series of “loophole workarounds” to get around issues. They bypasssed government bureaucracy by having companies directly purchase and transport ventilators from China.

  • To avoid other countries intercepting shipments, the ventilators were escorted directly to a cargo plane provided by a mining company. It refueled in Ethiopia to avoid scrutiny in other countries.

  • Upon landing in Brazil, they aimed to install the ventilators before customs could interfere. By landing late and having officials sign paperwork early, they got the ventilators into hospitals before going through formal customs.

  • When challenged legally, courts ruled in their favor, seeing the state of emergency as taking precedence over strict customs procedures. Through creative problem-solving and loopholes, they successfully got urgently needed medical supplies to save lives.

The passage discusses public urination in India and efforts to curb the practice. While India has laws against public urination, enforcement has been difficult. Some justify it due to lack of public toilets, though infrastructure has improved under India’s Clean India program which built over 110 million toilets between 2014-2020. However, public urination still persists, as some policymakers see it as a cultural issue rather than just a lack of facilities.

The passage introduces the concept of a “roundabout” approach - finding an indirect solution rather than directly confronting the behavior. One example is Mumbai painting walls with messages about urination disrespecting religious figures, tapping into cultural norms instead of just laws. Overall the passage examines why directly enforcing anti-urination laws has had limited success, and how indirect, culturally-focused approaches may be more effective at changing behavior.

The key points are:

  • Public urination in India was a deeply ingrained social habit that was difficult to change through conventional means like providing more toilets or enforcing fines.

  • Property owners installed ceramic tiles depicting Hindu gods at knee-high levels on walls where men urinated, as urinating in front of images of gods is considered blasphemous. This acted as a “roundabout workaround” to curb the behavior.

  • The tiles significantly reduced public urination incidents by making men feel stage fright at the idea of urinating in front of gods.

  • Roundabout workarounds disturb and redirect positive feedback loops that lead to self-reinforced behaviors. They provide a stopgap solution by taking a different indirect approach when a direct solution is not feasible.

  • Installing the god tiles was a roundabout workaround that tapped into people’s belief systems to change their behavior, since directly changing minds and social norms was not working. It served as a temporary but effective solution until the underlying issue could be more fully addressed.

  • Social distancing was used effectively during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic to reduce death rates by closing schools, churches, theaters, and banning public gatherings. However, in more recent years some had come to expect immediate pharmaceutical solutions and saw social distancing as dystopian.

  • Scientists and policymakers were aware that a new pandemic was inevitable and devised plans in the US and UK to deal with pandemics, recognizing they could spread exponentially if not contained early. Social distancing was identified as an important strategy.

  • When COVID-19 emerged, populist politicians claimed unproven drugs could treat it, despite evidence that social distancing was needed to slow transmission rates while vaccines were developed. Scientists emphasized the importance of social distancing given the larger global population.

  • When COVID-19 hit Lombardy hard, social distancing measures were gradually introduced, varying in strictness. This disrupted transmission rates and allowed healthcare systems to cope while more was learned about the virus. Though seen as backwards, social distancing bought valuable time.

  • The passage discusses the concept of “bootlegging” where employees secretly work on innovative ideas that lack official support, due to a tension between autonomy and management control within companies. Some breakthrough innovations like aspirin and the antibiotic ciprofloxacin originated from such underground efforts.

  • Bootlegging refers to innovative projects that employees work on secretly within companies until their value is proven. Allowing some level of bootlegging can encourage risk-taking and innovation.

  • Studies show companies with more bootlegging have employees who are less likely to disapprove of innovative efforts. Rigidly prohibiting it discourages creativity.

  • Some companies like 3M and HP formally allowed limited work time for employees’ own projects, avoiding conflicts but promoting innovation.

  • Roundabout workarounds can shift power dynamics and disrupt self-reinforcing behaviors, as seen in the example of Elango Rangaswamy addressing caste discrimination in India through a housing project.

  • By indirectly using one problem (housing shortage) to address another deeper issue (casteism), he was able to start reducing discrimination where more direct approaches had not worked.

  • Activists and social entrepreneurs need to be flexible and resourceful to create temporary solutions for intractable problems. The chapter will discuss examples of resisting evictions through workarounds.

The summary discusses various cases where vulnerable communities have faced repeated evictions from their lands. In one example, a school in India designed a modular construction that could be quickly dismantled and reassembled to avoid demolition during evictions.

Another example discusses the Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous people in Brazil who have faced forced removal from their ancestral lands. When faced with one eviction order, they made an unusual request to the government - that they be allowed to collectively die and be buried on the land, rather than leave. This grab for attention through an extreme measure helped stall the eviction temporarily and raise awareness.

The summary notes that while disruptive tactics can garner short-term attention, more lasting change requires pivoting the approach. It cites the example of an activist who falsely claimed Dow Chemical took responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, briefly impacting their stock price but with no real consequences once exposed. Overall the piece examines different workaround strategies communities have used to resist evictions from their lands.

  • The story of Scheherazade, who used her gift for storytelling to delay her execution by the king each night and eventually changed his mind about killing her.

  • The king’s first wife had cheated on him, making him distrust all women. He decided to marry a new virgin each day and have her executed in the morning before she could betray him.

  • Scheherazade asked to bid farewell to her sister, and then began telling a captivating story to the king. She intentionally ended the story at a cliffhanger each night to make the king curious enough to delay her execution and hear the rest of the story.

  • She continued this pattern of storytelling for 1,001 nights, using the stories to teach the king important lessons and eventually win his heart. By the end, they had three children together and he decided to spare her life.

  • Through her indirect resistance of using stories instead of directly confronting his authority, Scheherazade was able to slowly reshape her fate and flip the power dynamic over time. Her roundabout approach of buying herself more time each day through cliffhanger stories eventually led to big changes in persuading the king.

  • 3M, a large healthcare company, could only commit to doubling production of N95 masks in March 2020 due to the challenges of quickly expanding complex manufacturing operations.

  • In crisis situations with high stakes, scarce resources, and little time, decentralized patchwork solutions are needed rather than a single solution.

  • Governments asked non-healthcare companies to help produce hand sanitizer, ventilators, and masks using available resources.

  • Even LVMH, a luxury goods conglomerate, repurposed factory equipment and materials to produce hand sanitizer for free when France entered lockdown. They were able to do this because some equipment and materials overlapping with pharmaceuticals.

  • Next best workarounds can solve pressing problems imperfectly but are valuable in crises. Creative organizations like CPCD in Brazil find extraordinary solutions in mundane resources to educate underserved children outside the rigid school system.

  • Engineer Topher White repurposed discarded cell phones powered by solar energy to create a distributed network that detects illegal logging in rainforests via acoustic monitoring and alerts, addressing environmental challenges.

  • White co-founded Rainforest Connection, a nonprofit that uses recycled cell phones placed in forests to detect illegal logging activity through their microphones. This helped directly stop illegal logging and also provided data to advocate for increased forest protection.

  • White showed how repurposing ubiquitous resources like discarded phones can lead to scalable solutions for complex problems like deforestation. This expands what is possible through finding alternative uses for everyday items.

  • Zipline, a Silicon Valley company, partnered with Rwanda’s government to launch the world’s first commercial drone delivery service for medical supplies. This works around Rwanda’s lack of transportation infrastructure by using drones to quickly deliver essentials like blood and vaccines to remote clinics.

  • Operação Serenata de Amor used artificial intelligence to analyze spending receipts from Brazilian politicians, identifying over 8,000 suspicious expenses through an open-source AI robot named Rosie. This engaged citizens and circumvented resource constraints in investigating corruption. It demonstrated how mundane uses of advanced technologies like AI can solve problems.

In summary, it discusses how finding alternative uses for ordinary or ubiquitous resources, or applying extraordinary technologies to everyday needs, can lead to scalable solutions for complex issues and expand what is possible through next best workarounds.

  • Cryptography emerged from workarounds that circumvented the NSA’s monopoly during the Cold War. Researchers like Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman developed public key cryptography, making encrypted communication and privacy online possible.

  • This led to increasing efforts to enable anonymity online. Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin was a major workaround invented in 2008 in response to distrust in financial institutions after the 2008 crisis. Bitcoin allowed anonymous and untraceable digital transactions without centralized control.

  • Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin and the blockchain technology it’s built on. It quickly gained popularity as an alternative to the traditional financial system. Early adopters like Hal Finney helped develop it.

  • While some workarounds run parallel to the mainstream, others like Bitcoin disrupt the status quo. Workarounds often stretch what’s possible at the fringes before effects trickle to the mainstream.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg pioneered women’s rights law through strategic litigation workarounds. One of her early prominent cases set precedents that changed anti-discrimination systems. Her work blurred distinctions between workarounds and the mainstream over time.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced discrimination as a woman trying to get a legal job in New York in 1959 despite her excellent credentials. No law firm would hire her due to being Jewish, a woman, and a mother.

  • She reluctantly took a job at Rutgers Law School where she began focusing on gender equity and women’s rights law. She was inspired by Sarah Grimké’s call for equal rights without favors.

  • In the 1960s she immersed herself in feminist literature which shaped her views, seeing both men and women needing to share family responsibilities. She taught one of the first classes on women and the law.

  • One of her early significant cases was Moritz v. Commissioner, where she argued on behalf of a man denied a tax deduction for caring for his mother. By using a man’s case, she could avoid direct confrontation and potentially set a precedent to help women’s rights too.

  • Her tactful arguments focused on individuals like Moritz rather than broader issues, and she prevailed in having sex-based discrimination ruled unconstitutional. This opened the door for dismantling hundreds of discriminatory laws.

  • Ginsburg pioneered strategic “workarounds” and indirect approaches to effect change, as direct confrontation with the all-male system would not have worked. Her approaches helped establish important legal precedents and identified many laws needing reform.

The passage discusses when it is acceptable and desirable to use next best workarounds. Some key points:

  • Next best workarounds can be stand-alone fixes that address problems quickly, but sometimes they also pave the path for more structural changes in the future.

  • They require using available resources rather than waiting for ideal solutions. Examples include improvising uses for common items like biscuits or old cell phones.

  • Next best workarounds mean working around complexity to achieve immediate goals. They can have major impacts even if they seem small at first, like technologies that spot public expenditures.

  • They are most useful when obvious solutions have failed or are impossible. They showcase how to draw attention to overlooked opportunities using limited available resources.

  • The outcome may not match the intended solution, but next best workarounds can still lead to happy outcomes like a baby playing with gift wrapping.

  • They are about sidestepping obstacles pragmatically rather than waiting for a perfect replacement. Sometimes these intermediary solutions uncover new possibilities for seemingly unsolvable challenges.

In summary, the passage argues that next best workarounds are acceptable and desirable when they can quickly address problems in a practical way, even if only temporarily, by making use of existing available resources rather than waiting for ideal conditions. They may also end up enabling more fundamental changes over time.

  • In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt argued that Adolf Eichmann was not a murderous monster but rather a bland bureaucrat who blindly followed rules and conformed to authority. She coined the term “banality of evil” to describe how normal people can commit horrific acts through blind conformity.

  • Stanley Milgram’s conformity experiments in the 1960s surprisingly found that about two-thirds of participants were willing to administer potentially lethal electric shocks when instructed by an authority figure, demonstrating people’s tendency to conform even when it means harming others.

  • Rules can shape our thinking and behavior in both explicit and implicit ways. Unquestioned conformity to rules limits critical thinking and ignores whether rules are fair or desirable.

  • Context matters - there are different implicit “rules of the game” that guide behavior in different social settings and contexts. Rules exert power and can be used to otherize and control marginalized groups.

  • Deviating from rules can be cognitively liberating by encouraging critical thought about their impacts and alternatives. Rules are not inherently positive or sacrosanct and deserve questioning and challenges at times.

In summary, it discusses how rules and conformity can enable harm through blind obedience, and argues we should be willing to deviate from rules at times to think critically about their impacts and potential unfairness.

  • Blaming individuals for complex social problems is inadequate and counterproductive. It diverts attention from examining the root causes and systems that contributed to the issues.

  • Criminality is often a result of conformity to different “rules of the game” within certain environments and contexts, not blatant deviation. People in criminal groups can abide by their own codes while intentionally breaking state laws.

  • Disobedience directly confronts and antagonizes the establishment, eliciting retaliation. Deviance is a more subtle unconventional approach that uses parts of the status quo, like loopholes, to effect change in less overt ways.

  • Rather than solely blaming “deviants” for problems, we should analyze the various formal and informal rules that shape human behavior and social expectations, as well as work to reform problematic rules and systems. This leads to more just and effective solutions than individual blame.

In summary, the passage critiques an overreliance on concepts like individual blame, conformity and deviance, arguing for a more nuanced and systemic examination of how rules and power dynamics influence human actions and social issues.

The passage characterizes different approaches to deviance, or standing out from the crowd: confrontation, negotiation, and workarounds.

Confrontation involves openly breaking rules and clashing with those in power, but comes with high risks of punishment. Negotiation involves organizing groups to put pressure on authorities over time for rule changes, but it requires endorsement from within power structures to be effective.

Workarounds provide a lower-risk approach by getting things done without directly challenging rules or authority. Unlike confrontation, workarounds avoid legal liability since rules are not technically broken. Unlike negotiation, workarounds produce quicker results without needing support from those in power.

The passage argues workarounds are more accessible and effective than confrontation or negotiation for proliferating deviance. They minimize risks of failure or reprisal while still enabling deviance. Overall, the passage advocates for a sympathetic view of deviance, especially when pursued through workarounds rather than outright disobedience or rule-breaking.

The passage talks about embracing complexity and being open to workarounds by recognizing the limitations of one’s knowledge. It discusses how we tend to reinforce assumptions rather than challenge what we think we know. An old Yoruba tale is used to illustrate how incomplete information and overconfidence in partial understandings can lead to conflicts.

Decision-making models often fail to question underlying assumptions, instead just validating clients’ existing views. Consultants should investigate with less depth but more breadth, questioning facts and objectives. Like Shakespeare, embracing ambiguity allows stories to remain unsettled and conclusions open-ended.

To develop a workaround mindset, we must acknowledge we don’t have full pictures and be willing to deconstruct assumptions rather than build upon them rigidly. We should turn “unknown unknowns” into “known unknowns” to explore, and reconstruct knowledge in new ways. Anthropologists’ goal of making the familiar strange and strange familiar is presented as a way to practice deconstructing and challenging preconceptions.

  • Jane and Simon Berry connected something ubiquitous (Coca-Cola) with something serious (medicine) to make the familiar strange. Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed how a man could suffer from sex-based discrimination to make the strange familiar.

  • By making the strange familiar and familiar strange, we can better navigate extremes in management - arbitrary approaches with little analysis, and paralysis from too much analysis.

  • If we can identify knowledge gaps without falling into them, we can think more creatively and laterally.

  • Adjusting our proximity, angle, focus, scope, resources and level of detail when analyzing problems is like playing with camera settings - it allows us to highlight different aspects and reinterpret situations.

  • Just as there’s no single right way to take a photo, experimentation is important when problem-solving. A narrow or broad focus, quick or blurry exposure, and consideration of available resources can provide different insights.

  • Playing with these “settings” encourages curiosity, flexibility and frequent reexamination of challenges, to explore “known unknowns” rather than fixating on limited information. This outsider, experimental perspective can lead to new understandings.

The passage discusses insiders versus outsiders and their perspectives on problems. Insiders who are experts in a field may become numb to problems because they encounter them regularly. This limits their ability to think outside the box and see unconventional solutions.

Outsiders, on the other hand, are not constrained by existing ways of thinking. When first learning about a new problem or concept, they may tinker and combine ideas in unexpected ways that surprise experts. Their lack of expertise and ownership over the problem allows more flexibility. Examples cited include hackers, children with naive questions, and Portia outwitting Shylock in the court.

The passage then discusses how organizations can foster more outsider perspectives. This includes encouraging generalist knowledge, job rotation programs, hiring consultants, and increasing diversity. It also discusses how outsiders can be influential even when “on the inside” of an organization by challenging existing assumptions.

In complex problems with no clear solutions, simplicity through “workarounds” is advocated over complicated approaches. Workarounds address urgent needs while further exploring opportunities. Outsiders are well-suited for workarounds given their ability to think beyond conventions and strip away “accidental complexity.”

The passage discusses the principles of developing workarounds. It notes that the typical problem-solving approach of clearly defining the problem and then developing logical solutions is not always effective, as problems are often messy and interconnected.

It recommends embracing ambiguity and considering both the problem and standard “default” solutions simultaneously. Workarounds thrive in messy situations where problems overlap. The process should be iterative rather than step-by-step.

When developing a workaround, it’s important to establish a foundation by identifying what is known and unknown about the problem or default solution. For the problem, this includes a general description, obstacles, and explanations for why it exists. For default solutions, it involves noting traditional approaches and responsible parties.

The foundation helps get the creative process started but does not need to be fully defined upfront. The goal is to systematically explore both the problem and default solution by challenging current knowledge, with the understanding that the foundation may change as new ideas emerge. This approach allows for flexibility in developing innovative workarounds.

Here is a summary of the key points about workaround approaches to addressing public healthcare issues:

  • Piggyback workarounds rely on leveraging existing relationships and networks to deliver healthcare in new ways or eliminate unnecessary actors/connections. This could involve partnering across private/public sectors or using distribution networks in novel ways.

  • Loophole workarounds look for vulnerabilities or instances where limiting rules/obstacles don’t apply to find ways to creatively interpret or circumvent rules to expand healthcare access. This could mean following the letter but not spirit of regulations.

  • Roundabout workarounds identify self-reinforcing behaviors that maintain healthcare access issues and aim to create distractions or delays to disrupt problematic momentum. This could involve addressing related issues like housing that indirectly impact health.

  • Next best workarounds focus on creatively repurposing or reassembling immediately available resources in unconventional ways to tackle healthcare problems with minimal-tech solutions. This emphasizes practical workarounds using existing means.

The key is to think expansively about relationships, rules, behaviors, and resources that could enable alternative approaches to addressing public healthcare issues from outside conventional solutions.

Here are the key points this summary would cover:

  • The prompt discusses Hilda Grunwald, a German computer programmer who wants to help recently arrived Syrian refugees in Berlin.

  • Hilda educates herself on the global refugee crisis but finds the causes are complex and intertwined. She realizes focusing too much on defining the problem precisely risks diverting energy from taking action.

  • Walking by a tourist information center, Hilda envisions repurposing these underused facilities to help refugees. The centers could provide information, guidance, and connections to employment/training opportunities for new arrivals.

  • This workaround solution leverages an existing community resource in a novel way beyond its original tourism-focused design. By noticing existing structures and resources differently, creative new uses can be identified to address complex social problems.

  • The vignette demonstrates how strategically employing available assets through an alternative lens, without getting stuck on perfect problem definitions, allows for pragmatic action in the face of large-scale challenges like the global refugee crisis. Iterative, grounded approaches are suggested over rigid templates.

Here are the key points I gathered from summarizing the passage:

  • The person is mulling over a volunteer request to teach coding to immigrants at a bootcamp. They realize immigrants may not be legally allowed to work but can volunteer, and they could set up a web development company where immigrants “volunteer” and receive “donations” instead of salaries, exploiting a legal loophole.

  • Over the weekend, they discuss with a friend how populist far-right groups spread misinformation online. One idea is partnering with universities to fact-check news and boost reputable sources in search rankings, but this may not be effective against social media spread of misinformation.

  • On the bike ride home, they consider other relationships like connecting immigrants to Syrian restaurant owners for guidance. Another idea is using an existing network like CouchSurfing to help immigrants find temporary housing instead of repurposing tangible resources.

  • Multiple ideas have been proposed to help immigrants in different ways. The key now is choosing which path to pursue first based on potential impact, applicable skills, and feasibility as an initial step.

Here is a summary of the key points about strategies that can promote workarounds:

  • Plan less and engage in less long-term planning. Embrace more agility and flexibility to respond to opportunities as they arise.

  • Make decisions in a more horizontal and collaborative way rather than through strict hierarchies. Allow for open sharing of ideas and modifications.

  • Be willing to change course and pivot when needed. Not every workaround will succeed, so embrace experimentation and adjusting approaches.

  • Encourage exploration of opportunities through small, incremental steps rather than trying to fully plan out every detail upfront. Act your way through challenges.

  • Horizontal collaboration and sharing of ideas, like in hacker communities, can foster novelty through new combinations and adaptations not confined to strict domains or ownership.

  • Embrace some failure and uncertainty as workarounds are tried. Relatively low stakes and investments allow for adjusting or winding down approaches that don’t work.

So in summary, the strategies promoted more ad hoc, responsive, collaborative, and experimental approaches rather than rigid long-term planning and hierarchical decision-making.

  • An infamous psychology experiment found that subjects who ate freshly baked cookies while waiting for an impossible puzzle solved persisted longer than those who ate radishes. This illustrates the importance of maintaining momentum to avoid burnout.

  • Allowing for workarounds while also assessing their viability and planning next steps can help organizations better prepare for future opportunities.

  • Developing the skills of “pivoting” (redirecting to address unanticipated needs) and “stacking” (combining workarounds) can amplify impact. Masters learn to combine different types of workarounds rather than relying on just one approach.

  • When scaling workarounds, it’s important to consider the directions of “up” (expanding reach), “deep” (establishing stronger ties), and “out” (ensuring longevity beyond a single person or organization). Different contexts require different scaling strategies.

  • Corporate culture shapes how organizations create, pursue, and value workarounds. Key attributes are dynamism, pragmatism, and accountability. Best practices are to “act first, then think,” “get to good enough,” and “ask forgiveness, not permission.” Taking action provides valuable learning that improves thinking.

Here is a summary of the key points about the f-sustaining model:

  • Jane and Simon gained new information that they needed to act on in order to react to. They pivoted from literally piggybacking on Coca-Cola crates to more abstractly piggybacking on existing consumer goods value chains.

  • This dynamism and ability to workaround literal constraints enabled their solution to quickly scale across the country. They were able to adapt their approach based on new information and opportunities.

  • The ability to pivot and leverage existing structures/partnerships in new ways, rather than being constrained by literal interpretations, allowed their workaround solution to spread more widely and effectively address the problem at a larger scale. It showed an innovative, adaptive approach enabled by not being rigidly tied to the initial constraints or conception of the problem.

  • Workarounds can flourish with or without collaboration from others. While involving others can amplify impact, it’s not necessary and may introduce challenges.

  • When collaborating, some effective approaches include engaging diverse perspectives, allowing for experimentation, and creating platforms for heterogeneous groups to interact and share ideas. Workshops are one way to gather input from within an organization.

  • If collaboration is not possible or desirable, workarounds can still be pursued by piggybacking on others’ efforts, identifying partial or roundabout solutions, or exploiting loopholes and technicalities.

  • Safety nets like full-time jobs allowed early innovators like cypherpunks and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to develop impactful workarounds without compromising their livelihoods. As workarounds grow, safety nets become more important.

  • Effective leaders manage uncertainty by interpreting challenges, providing reassurance and cohesion through crisis, rather than pretending problems don’t exist or forcing a predetermined vision. Both collaboration and leadership styles impact an organization’s openness to workarounds.

  • Group decisions are not always best due to psychological phenomena like groupthink that can lead to overconfidence in popular but flawed decisions.

  • Rather than focusing on large, complicated collaborations, it may be better initially to consult a select few people who can contribute skills, resources or enthusiasm to help get a workaround started in a nimble way.

  • As the workaround gains traction, the needs will change and other collaborators can be incorporated in different capacities in a more organic way than trying to build consensus in a large team upfront.

  • The core benefit of a workaround is that it allows things to get done unconventionally. Flexibility is more important than collaboration. If the focus is only on teamwork and discussion without testing new ideas, it may satisfy a desire for consensus but won’t have the spirit of a true workaround.

  • Workarounds are important not just in work but in daily life for coping with problems flexibly without overfocusing on perfect solutions. They can unlock ongoing changes to long-standing issues by exploring alternatives, just as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legal workarounds eventually led to rethinking of broader discrimination issues.

The author notes that this book would not have been possible without the generosity and insights shared by Simon and Jane Berry and other interview subjects around the world. The author hopes the book does justice to their contributions and wit in opening their minds to share their experiences. The author acknowledges their role in making the research and knowledge in the book possible.

  • In 2004, the average interest rate for credit card debt in Brazil was 323% per year, one of the highest rates in Latin America. It later increased to a maximum of 875% annually.

  • Ancient codes like the Code of Hammurabi already restricted interest rates on loans, reflecting concerns about usury that continue today.

  • Sobral Pinto took on the controversial case of defending communist Arthur Ewert against torture charges in 1934 Brazil. His arguments helped establish principles of human rights and due process.

  • Services like money transfers faced high fees until Transferwise launched in 2011, offering lower rates by exploiting regulatory loopholes between countries.

  • Cultural and religious norms long restricted practices like divorce in many countries. Divorce was legalized in Malta in 2011, Chile in 2004, Ireland in 1997, Argentina in 1987, and Brazil in 1977.

  • California was the first US state to allow no-fault divorce in 1969, while New York did not recognize it until 2010, being the last state to do so.

Here is a summary of the key points from the article:

  • New York was the last state to legalize no-fault divorce, doing so in 2010. Previously, one spouse had to prove wrongdoing like adultery or abandonment to obtain a divorce.

  • Starting in the 1940s-1960s, Mexico became a popular destination for Americans to travel to obtain quick divorces. Divorces could be obtained in just 6 weeks vs 1+ years in the US.

  • An estimated 500,000 American couples obtained divorces in Mexico during this time period. Famous people like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Paulette Goddard divorced in Mexico.

  • In the US, divorce was generally not allowed until 1967. Couples looking to end marriages would sometimes travel to Mexico, Haiti, or Dominican Republic where divorces were readily granted to non-residents.

  • New York’s delay in adopting no-fault divorce was partly due to concerns about people obtaining quick divorces out of state and returning to remarry in NY right away under its fault-based system. The 2010 law eliminated this issue.

So in summary, the article discusses how New York was the last state to adopt no-fault divorce and how prior to 1970, many Americans traveled abroad, especially to Mexico, to obtain quicker divorces than allowed in the US at the time.

Here is a summary of the article:

The article discusses Reddit removing its ‘warrant canary’ language, which was a way for the platform to hint that it had received secret surveillance orders without actually disclosing anything. Reddit had previously included language saying it had never received related requests, but removed this language in 2016.

The removal of the warrant canary suggests Reddit received one or more secret orders requiring it to hand over user data or assist with surveillance under national security laws like the National Security Letter. However, Reddit did not explicitly confirm receiving such orders.

The article provides background on warrant canaries and how tech companies had used them to signal cooperation with secret government surveillance efforts without expressly disclosing cooperation, which they are legally barred from doing. It notes Reddit’s removal of the canary language means users have less visibility into how the site may cooperate with intelligence gathering.

In summary, the article discusses Reddit removing “warrant canary” wording that hinted at secret government surveillance cooperation, suggesting the platform received related secret orders but unable to expressly confirm due to legal restrictions. It provides context on these canaries and their purpose in allowing covert signals about surveillance cooperation.

Here is a summary of the key points from the passages:

  • Chuck House served in an “engineering duty” at HP according to a 2009 Forbes article.

  • Other companies like Xerox saw bootlegged innovations where employees engaged in unsanctioned projects on their own time.

  • Innovation management studies have looked at phenomena like “bootlegging” where individuals or small groups pursue ideas independently of their employers.

  • Companies like 3M and HP explicitly allowed employees to spend a certain amount of work time each week to pursue their own ideas, which led to new beneficial projects.

  • The Indian caste system has existed for over 3,000 years and involves hereditary social classes where one’s occupation is largely dependent on their caste.

  • Indigenous groups like the Guarani Kaiowá in Brazil see themselves as guardians of the land and view its protection as integral to their cosmological beliefs.

  • An open letter written in 2012 expressed the despair of Guarani Kaiowá youth facing collective death from poverty and marginalization on their lands.

  • Activists like Jacques Servin of the Yes Men use manufactured reality to expose issues, as they did by posing as a fake World Trade Organization spokesperson.

  • Stories like One Thousand and One Nights can teach us about using narrative to convey important messages to achieve wider understanding and change.

Here is a summary of the key points from the sources provided:

  • Hannah Arendt covered Adolf Eichmann’s trial in 1961 and published a book called “Eichmann in Jerusalem” in which she argued that Eichmann and other Nazi leaders were not inherently evil or sadistic people, but rather “banal” bureaucrats who committed atrocities not due to personal hatred or malicious intent, but because they subscribed to a murderous ideology and sought to advance their careers by dutifully following rules and commands.

  • Stanley Milgram’s famous obedience experiments in the 1960s showed how ordinary people could be influenced to perform harmful or unethical acts simply by conforming to authority figures and rules, even when they expressed personal discomfort.

  • Sociologist Michel Foucault analyzed how societal institutions like prisons and asylums functioned not just to punish or help individuals, but also to normalize populations through disciplinary techniques and societal control. He was critical of how rules and punishment can reinforce inequity and oppression.

  • Behavioral studies have found that people frequently engage in small acts of unethical or dishonest behavior, such as cheating or lying, especially when it provides personal gain and the likelihood of getting caught is low. Large organizations and professions also sees instances of systematic wrongdoing carried out through bureaucratic means.

  • Figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and legal scholars argued that while civil disobedience of unjust laws can be necessary for reform, there must still be a foundation of respect for law and the democratic process of changing laws. Disregard for law risks anarchy and the potential for abuse of power.

  • Various sources discuss the tension between rule-following and independent or creative thinking, and how both can have benefits as well as drawbacks depending on the social and ethical implications in each circumstance. Outsider perspectives can also help identify limitations or problems with dominant ways of thinking.

Here are brief summaries of the provided passages:

  • David Epstein’s book Range explores how generalists often triumph over specialists in various fields due to their ability to solve problems in new and creative ways.

  • “Bug bounty programs” are programs run by some organizations that invite outsiders to find and report vulnerabilities, demonstrating the value companies place on fresh eyes and perspectives.

  • In Japan, lifetime employment at a single company was once common, but views are changing due to increased globalization and recognition that diverse experiences are valuable.

  • Systems thinking pioneer Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline argues that embracing complexity, ambiguity and doubt can help organizations improve.

  • When facing complex problems with no clear solutions, piecemeal experimentation may help illuminate new paths forward.

  • Studies show complex real-world problems often involve “essential complexity” of the task as well as “accidental complexity” from organizational dysfunction.

  • Orisha tales from the Yoruba religion impart lessons about embracing complexity and contradictory truths through the character of Shango.

Here is a summary of the key points from the provided source:

  • Herminia Ibarra’s research suggests that our sense-making processes and identities are provisional and develop through experimentation and reactions to experiences over time.

  • Steve Rayner advocated for “wicked problems” that seem impossible to solve directly and require indirect, innovative solutions.

  • D.W. Winnicott explored how infants develop in complex relationships with caregivers.

  • Pragmatism is a social science approach that emphasizes practical applications over abstract theory.

  • Malcolm Gladwell discussed how Steve Jobs focused on pursuit of perfection through incremental improvements.

  • Sidney Winter and others explored how organizations attempt to explore better paths forward rather than fixating on any single path.

  • Adam Grant profiled how successes like Bill Gates and failures of early projects helped shape leaders’ careers over time through experimentation and resilience.

  • Leadership requires acting despite uncertainty to hedge risks and adapt to changing situations over time.

  • Gianpiero Petriglieri discussed crisis leadership psychology and managing disturbances productively.

  • Russell Ackoff advocated for “mess management” to handle complex, undefined problems.

  • Leadership case studies highlighted different COVID responses and impacts of New Zealand’s and Brazil’s leaders.

  • “Robust action” frameworks integrate pragmatism, experimentation and stakeholder engagement to navigate challenges.

  • Co-creation and open innovation can help organizations and rivals solve problems through collaborative efforts.

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About Matheus Puppe