The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them Happen
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More About This Title The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them Happen


A different way of discovering and developing the best business ideas

Jack Welch once said, "Someone, somewhere has a better idea." In this myth-busting book, the authors reveal that great business ideas do not spring from innate creativity, or necessarily from the brilliant minds of people. Rather, great ideas come to those who are in the habit of looking for great ideas all around them, all the time. Too often, people fall into the trap of thinking that the only worthwhile idea is a thoroughly original one. Idea Hunters know better. They understand that valuable ideas are already out there, waiting to be found - and not just in the usual places.

  • Shows how to expand your capacity to find and develop winning business ideas
  • Explains why ideas are a critical asset for every manager and professional, not just for those who do "creative"
  • Reveals how to seek out and select the ideas that best serve your purposes and goals and define who you are, as a professional
  • Offers practical tips on how to master the everyday habits of an Idea Hunter, which include cultivating great conversations

The book is filled with illustrative accounts of successful Idea Hunters and stories from thriving "idea" companies. Warren Buffet, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Mary Kay Ash, Twitter, and Pixar Animation Studios are among the many profiled.


Andy Boynton is the dean of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. He was a professor of strategic leadership at IMD (International Institute for Management Development) in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he created and directed the school's highly-rated global Executive MBA program.

Bill Fischer is a professor at IMD.He previously served as dean and president of the China-Europe International Business School, a joint venture of the European Union and Chinese government, inShanghai, China.

William Bole is a journalist and a research fellow of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics at Boston College.


Preface:Why Hunt? xi

Introduction: Brilliance Not Required 1

Already Out ;ere 3

Ready to Unlearn 7

1 Know Your Gig 11

The Discernment 13

The Circle of Competence 17

Gigs Matter 19

The I–D–E–A Principles


2 Be Interested, Not Just Interesting 25

Curiosity at the Trading Post 28

Learning Machines 29

Your Brain Is Open 33

DeBning Your Own Hunt 36



3 Diversifying the Hunt 47

The Color of Your Ideas 49

WhenWeak Ties Are Strong 51

Widening Your Intellectual Bandwidth 54

Bridging DistantWorlds 58

Ideas Are Everywhere 61



4 Mastering the Habits of the Hunt 71

The Practice of Ideas 73

Begin with an Eye 75

Observing at the Ritz 77

Erecting a Personal Platform of Observation 80

Write It Down 83

Get It Moving 86

Observe Yourself 88



5 Idea Flow Is Critical 101

The Case of the Guitar Strings 104

Creating Idea Spaces at Pixar 106

Finding the "Informal Bosses" 110

Letting Ideas Percolate 112

When It's Time to "Kill" Ideas 115


6 Create Great Conversations 129

"Continuers" and "Terminators" 132

The Value of a Naive Question 136

Preparing for the Big Conversation 138

Epilogue: Thoreau and the I-D-E-A Assessment 143

References 151

Acknowledgments 161

About the Authors 165

Index 167


"Humans make progress by discovering new ideas, but also, importantly, by repurposing the ones that already exist. Boynton and Fisher show how each of us can get better at this critical skill, identifying and reapplying existing ideas."
―Paul Romer, Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

“Hunting is an apt metaphor.  Ideas exist everywhere in the wild. The trick is knowing where to look for them and how to capture them.  Boynton and Fischer tell us how.”
―Ron Sargent, Chairman & CEO, Staples, Inc.

“The Idea Hunter is unique.  It’s about curiosity, agility and perpetually hunting for better ideas.  It’s a must read for anyone who wants to compete and collaborate more effectively each and every day.”
―Greg Brown, President & CEO, Motorola Solutions.

“This book upends a number of persistent myths about innovation and what it takes to be an ‘idea person.’ It shows that what’s required is not spectacular creativity or remarkable IQ, but curiosity—a genuine desire to engage in a daily search for ideas.  It will help transform the way you and your business operate.”
―Jay Hooley, Chairman, President & CEO, State Street Corporation

“The Idea Hunter is not only an enjoyable read. It offers a practical method so that anyone or any firm can learn the secrets of harnessing the power of ideas to drive success.”
― Laura J. Sen, President & CEO, BJ’s Wholesale Club

“Boynton and Fischer offer powerful and practical advice on how to jump-shift the flow of ideas in your organization.  This will become required reading for any leader intent on shaping a high-performance organization.”
―Michael D. White, Chairman & CEO, DirecTV

Observe, ask questions, be curious, dare to throw odd ideas into a group’s conversation to make it better. Be an Idea Hunter!
Ton Büchner, CEO, Sulzer, Ltd

My company aims to add about $4 billion in new sales every year. This won’t be possible without everyone in the organization contributing new ideas. TheIdea Hunter is an essential guide to systematically developing this critical capability.”
― Werner Geissler, Vice Chairman, Global Operations, Procter & Gamble

“Thrilling, fun, and inspiring, TheIdea Hunter tells stories and discerns patterns of behavior and habits shared by the great innovators of the past century. It finds similarities among the greats ranging from Warren Buffet to Steve Jobs, and even going back earlier in the century to Walt Disney and Thomas Edison. Through brief stories and simple self-reflection exercises, this book distills the quirky essence of leading imagination in a way we can consume it, and hopefully aspire to become one with it.
― Aaron C. Sylvan, Serial Entrepreneur and Technologist (One Technology, TrustWorks, LemonadeHeroes, Sylvan Social Technology)

“We rely on using the ideas of thousands of experts to win against tough competition in a crowded market. Using The Idea Hunter as a trail map, any leader can win the daily wars of ideas that differentiate the innovator from the rest.”
―Jack Hughes, Chairman and Co-founder, TopCoder, Inc.

“Idea hunters are normal people, with a normal life in a common social contest. The only difference is that they have an open mind and are skilled in searching. This brilliant book is an ideal guide to achieve an open mind in our complex world.”
Maurizio Marinelli, Visual Artist & President of Baskerville Research Center on Communication, Bologna, Italy