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“The ideas are there, all around us, just waiting to be identified and turned into innovations,” explains Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer, co-authors of The Idea Hunter (Jossey-Bass 2011).


Innovation is not the fruit of genius but of constant attention to cultivating curiosity…and humility.


The trick is to learn how to find them, and it does not take creative genius. Indeed, for the majority of the time, great innovations do not just spontaneously spring from gifted minds. Authors Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer point to open-mindedness and curiosity, listening, discernment, and organizational skills, and the ability to establish a safe zone for the teams within which a culture of innovation can take root.

1. Learn to see your world
Even seemingly ordinary aspects of daily life may be fertile hunting ground for new ideas. Boynton and Fischer stress that creative people are interested in everything that is going on around them.
• Curiosity: discover the hidden value in the world around you
• Openness: the desire to learn

2. Consider all points of view
You are an expert in your field? In that case, unfortunately, your technical know-how is unlikely to translate into creativ- ity: “The best ideas are not found by repeatedly covering the same ground.”
• Capitalizing on strategic networks
• Cross-fertilization: build bridges between fields

3. Daily practice
Idea hunting is not only about mindset, it is a disciplined activity that can be tried, regulated, and improved…On the condition that idea hunters stay within reasonable limits.
• Observation: take to the road
• Organization: classify sources of inspiration
• Visualization: develop a prototype culture

4. Create a safe zone
“The purpose of idea hunting is not to find THE greatest idea right away. It is to get an idea going and then give it time to grow, change, and mix with other ideas.”
• Impetus: create “idea places”
• Detection: focus on idea carriers

5. What they think, what they did
Despite the differences in their business models and cultures, Pixar and Procter & Gamble share fundamental values like inquisitiveness, non-judgmental attitudes, learning, and rationality. In addition, they are both devoted to talent development and good management practices — hence a straightforward secret to success. Go further with the interview with Stefan Bauer, head of Global Learning & Leadership Development at Eli Lilly & Company, who highlights the importance of providing the means to “liberate” atypical ideas and encouraging idea hunting throughout the company. Enabling creativity means developing strong learning programs and transversal social networks.

And if you want to learn more about how good ideas are born, we highly recommend this short video of Steven Johnson, auteur de Where Good Ideas Come From.

Read our Dossier
Idea Hunters: Making the most of the ideas that make the difference

UsBD21902Business Digest no. 219, September 2011.
A synthesis of several publications, accompanied by interviews with Stefan Bauer, Director of Global Learning and Leadership Development at Eli Lilly and Company, September 2011.