Wizard Academy Press (2008)
ISBN 9781932226638
Reviewed by Irene Watson for Reader Views (07/10)

My first exposure to “Da Vinci and the 40 Answers” was through a 2-day workshop under the same name facilitated by the author, Mark L. Fox.  The premise is based on the principles of TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) created by a Russian engineer/scientist Genrikh Altshuller. Altshuller's findings showed that, after studying hundreds of thousands of patents, “there are only about 1,500 basic problems.”  Fox further states “Every answer to every problem is found within the 40 principles of TRIZ...”

For the purpose of this review, I will cover two “lenses” (principles) of TRIZ and the relationship to a business.  One is “Peel the Onion.”  This particular lens made me stop in my tracks when I read Fox’s sub-title of “Everything You Know is Wrong.”  Further reading explained that if we rely on conventional wisdom as the key source for making decisions failure is imminent.  If we aren’t willing to look at other options we stifle our own creativity.  Challenging ourselves is of utmost importance if our goal is growth in our business and our personal lives.

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Another lens is “Brainstorming.”  To me, this is one of the most important aspects of managing a business.  However, as Fox explains in “Da Vinci and the 40 Answers,” on many occasions the brainstorming sessions don’t produce effective results.  According to Fox the ineffectiveness is a result of not setting rules for the brainstorming session.  One rule is “Generate as many ideas as possible. Go for quantity, not quality.”  I've been in many sessions when the brainstorming stops when everyone agrees on one idea but this always isn’t the best result.  On a personal note, when in Fox’s class, I was chosen to have my goal for the business brainstormed.  I acquired twenty-seven new ideas that can be implemented and this was as a result of the rule “Encourage Wild and Exaggerated Ideas, No Matter How Crazy, Ridiculous, or Far-fetched the Idea Might Be.”

Fox comes from an engineering background with accomplishments such as Chief Engineer on the Space Shuttle program and Chairman of the “orbital debris” committee. With that comes his creative side from which he draws extensively in his book and business consulting. “Da Vinci and the 40 Answers” is concise, written in lay language, and provides a diverse list of lenses that can be used in any business or personal advancement.  The examples and ideas can transform or update a business to become the forerunner in the industry. And, I can personally attest to that.