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The Four Workarounds

Strategies from the World's Scrappiest Organizations for Tackling Complex Problems

Paulo Savaget

Flatiron Books

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ISBN10: 1250789400
ISBN13: 9781250789402


304 Pages



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For ages, global corporations have been lecturing small organizations and not-for-profits on how to get things done. As it turns out, it should have been the other way around. In this groundbreaking book, award-winning researcher Paulo Savaget shows how the most valuable lessons about problem-solving can be learned from the scrappiest groups.

Savaget draws most of his examples from small organizations dedicated to social action that have made an art form out of subverting the status quo and have proved themselves adept at achieving massive wins with minimal resources. Through his research, Savaget identified the four workarounds that these groups commonly employ: the piggyback, the loophole, the roundabout, and the next best. With vivid and fascinating examples from his life and travels, he demonstrates how each one works and how to know which one to use when.

The Four Workarounds shows how seemingly intractable problems—from public urination to the challenges of delivering lifesaving medicine to remote communities—were addressed using unconventional tactics. Some of the world’s biggest and most admired companies are already using Savaget’s research to transform the ways they do business. And these same lessons can also revolutionize the ways we approach the challenges we all encounter every day of our lives.


Praise for The Four Workarounds

"Groundbreaking."—Next Big Idea Club

"Paulo Savaget cleverly reveals how you take scrappiness to success: the workaround. In The Four Workarounds, he uses real world examples to show us smart, efficient ways to problem-solve. This book helps us live happier, successful, and more fulfilling lives."—Jenn Lim, CEO and cofounder of Delivering Happiness, and bestselling author of Beyond Happiness

"If you are tired of business books about the secrets of Amazon, prepare to be surprised by great ideas that come from the Amazon. Using a rich library of examples, Paulo Savaget shows how “scrappy” organizations tackle seemingly intractable problems, from illegal logging in Brazil to caste discrimination in India to children diarrhea in sub-Saharan Africa. His distillation of their robust, dynamic and creative methods is an original and inspiring read for anyone interested in nontraditional problem-solving approaches."—Olivier Sibony, Professor of Strategy at HEC Paris and New York Times bestselling co-author of Noise

"The most effective companies have figured out how to 'hack' their own problems and use the four workarounds to bypass obstacles. But these 'hacks' are also used by all changemakers. Read this book to discover how to unleash the four workarounds in your organization."—Steve Blank, Adjunct Professor, Stanford University and author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owners Manual

"A smart guide to finding creative solutions for a variety of difficulties . . . clever case studies enlighten, and business readers will appreciate the suggestions on how to make one's workplace workaround friendly . . . Wise and level-headed, this delivers."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


I didn’t plan to study workarounds; I bumped into them as I searched for resourceful ways to tackle complex problems. I’m now an associate professor at the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and Saïd...

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About the author

Paulo Savaget

PAULO SAVAGET is associate professor at Oxford University’s Engineering Sciences Department and the Saïd Business School. He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar and has a background working as a lecturer, consultant, entrepreneur, and researcher finding innovative solutions for a more inclusive world. As a consultant, he worked on projects for large companies, non-profits, government agencies in Latin America, and the OECD. He currently resides in Oxford.