The Idea Hunter by Andy Boynton & Bill Fischer

One-size fits all coffee lids – it wasn’t always like that but it’s a simple innovation that makes life so much more convenient.

George Bernard Shaw: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I still will have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

“Idea” is from the Greek word, idein, “to see”.

Before setting up Disneyland, Walt Disney went to amusement park in Denmark, Tivoli Gardens and took down notes on the lights, chairs, the seats, food, etc.

Thomas Edison described his search for solutions as “the Hunt”.

Miles Davis: “I’m happy if I could play one new idea on a night.”

Warren Buffet: “It’s very hard to succeed in something unless you take the first step – which is to become very interested in it.”

Edison: “To get a good idea, you must first get a lot of ideas.”

Four principles for the Idea Hunter: (IDEA) Interested, Diverse, Exercised, Agile.

Scott Simon’s father: “Dress for the gig you want, not the one you have.”

Tom Peter’s questions: “When was the last time you asked, ‘What do I want to be’? What do I want to stand for? Does my work matter? Am I making a difference?”

Tom Peters: “I am known for (2-4 things). By this time next year, I plan to be known for (1-2 more things).”

Warren Buffet – “operating well within our circle of competency”

Henry Ford’s accidental discovery of a valve strip stem made of vanadium steel at a motor racetrack in Palm Beach was instrumental in the introduction of Model T.

Albert Einstein: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

What Warren Buffet did differently: went to S&P, Moody’s and ask to see files dated back 40-50 years ago and sit there scribbling notes; made a deal with local distributor of the WSJ, received it before midnight and got to read the news before everyone else.

Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

Diverse team: “(Time Magazine) It was one of Edison’s brightest ideas that when he moved seriously into his career as an inventor, in the 1870s, he created his own, smaller-scale version of an inventor community in Menlo Park, N.J. The laboratory and workshop he established there in 1876 — his “invention factory” — put him at the center of a critical mass of assistants with backgrounds in multiple areas of science, engineering and skilled labor. It was essentially America’s first industrial R&D facility and the forerunner of every business-world creative cockpit, from the Ford engineering center to the Microsoft campus and Google’s Googleplex. At Menlo Park, Edison once boasted, he and his team could develop “a minor invention every 10 days and a big thing every six months or so.”

Roald Amunsen, first person to reach the South pole, learnt from the Eskimos, unlike his better-funded rivals who dismissed the natives. (IMD: “Amundsen had an amazing thirst for learning. He took detailed notes of everything, constantly questioned strategies and used mistakes to his advantage. He also maximized cultural learning opportunities, as evidenced by his immersion in the lives of Eskimos to better understand the local ways of living. At the time, Eskimos were viewed as primitive people in need of influence from civilized society. To counter-balance any cultural barrier and earn their trust, Amundsen first learned the local language. Afterwards, he was able to gain insights about their technology, habits and culture. These lessons proved to be critical to Amundsen’s success during his epic trek to the South Pole.)

Charlie Munger: “I would sell the best hour of the day to myself.”

Adam Smith: “When the mind is employed about a variety of objects, it is somehow expanded and enlarged.”

John Stuart Mill: “It is hardly possible to overrate the value… of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication, has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary source of progress.”

“There was a price to be paid for this sameness (lack of diversity).”

Mark Granovetter’s “The Strength of Weak Ties” – “most valuable information comes from outside a person’s usual network of contacts, through weak ties.”

TopCoder and their ratings system for programmers – adapted it from NCAA and MLB.

Twitter – Jack Dorsey combined vehicle dispatching and social networking

iPod scrolling wheel inspired by HP’s 9836 workstation, introduced in 1983

(from Internet) “Integrated diversity” is a term used by Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of General Electric, to define a learning culture. He described “integrated diversity” as the elimination of boundaries between businesses and the transferring of ideas from one place in the company to another. “Integrated diversity means the drawing together of our thirteen different businesses by sharing ideas, by finding multiple applications for technological advancements, and by moving people across businesses to provide fresh perspectives and to develop broad-based experience. Integrated diversity gives us a company that is considerably greater than the sum of its parts.”

IDEO: Innovation begins with the eye.

“Thomas Edison was a tireless note taker. He recorded his thoughts in more than 2500 notebooks, most of which were at least 200 pages long.”

Richard Branson wanted to talk to a pretty girl in the next aisle but he was stuck in his seat the whole flight. Virgin Atlantic now has stand-up bars in its cabins.

Self-diagnostic tool for Idea Hunters: “1. Your level of curiosity – whether you’re interested in the both the substance of your work and other people’s work. 2. Your breadth – whether you’re consulting a wide diversity of sources. 3 – Your habits – whether your idea search is steady rather than sporadic. 4. Your positioning – whether you’re putting yourself in the line of fire of great ideas and building these ideas as you go along.”

West Side Story- originally a story of rivalry between Catholics and Jews called East Side Story which in real life fizzled out in 1949. But in 1954, Bernstein and Laurents saw a newspaper headline about gangfights between California citizens and Mexican immigrants in LA.

“Millions of satisfied Mary Kay users around the world can thank some scarred horse’s ass for their radiant complexions.”

W.L. Gore and Elixir Strings

The sociologist Ronald S. Burt “consistently found that standout ideas come from managers who forge conversations with people outside their immediate circles. Those people span what Burt refers to as ‘structural holes’”.

Burt’s paper – “Social Origins of Good Ideas” : “People whose networks span structural holes have early access to diverse, often contradictory, information and interpretations which gives them a competitive advantage in delivering good ideas. People connected to groups beyond their own can expect to find themselves delivering valuable ideas, seeming to be gifted with creativity. This is not creativity born of deep intellectual ability. It is creativity as an import-export business. An idea mundane in one group can be a valuable insight in another.”

“Robert Sutton, a professor of engineering and management science at Stanford University, tells of a visit that Steve Jobs paid to Yahoo headquarters in Sunnydale, California, some years ago after the top brass (one of whom funneled this account to Sutton) invited him in for a talk. During the meeting, they came around to the subject of bad ideas and the task of purging them. That’s no sweat, Jobs told the Yahoo leaders, adding that almost anyone can do that. The hard part, he stressed, is killing off good ideas—which must be done. His point was that any successful idea requires a vast amount of attention (read: resources), and there are only so many ideas that can get this sort of treatment. Many good ones will have to go.”

Create great conversations – Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski in Fantasia.


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