You don’t have to be a genius to come up with the best ideas that get startups off the ground and drive companies like Google and Apple.
In fact, anyone can learn how to generate more big ideas.
In their book, The Idea Hunter: How To Find The Best Ideas And Make Them Happen, Boston College Carroll School of Management Dean Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer, professor at Switzerland’s IMD business school, examine the world’s most successful thinkers and companies.
They found that “habits and behaviours are more important than sheer brain power, that it’s not the brightest who perform the best, but it’s people who have figured out how to really prosper in an idea-rich society,” Fischer said in an interview with Inc.
We’ve highlighted some of the best takeaways from the book.
Sam Walton turned Walmart into one of the world's largest corporations by constantly keeping his eyes open and searching for new ideas in his competitors' stores. He spent a significant amount of his time travelling across the country to see what other people were doing.
'In a professional context, intellectual curiosity is basically an abiding interest in any and all matters that could improve the job you're doing,' say Boynton and Fischer.
Don't look in the same places everyone else is -- you need to discover what they're missing.
Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company known for Samuel Adams Boston Lager, came up with the idea for selling beer while talking to a stranger he met in a bar. The man told Koch that he liked imported beer even though it tasted spoiled, which led Koch to develop fresher-tasting, high-end beer.
'In professional life, some of the best ideas will come from weak-tie individuals, whose conversational networks are different from ours. They may well have an entirely different perspective on a subject, one that expands our supply of knowledge and ideas.'
Companies like Google have realised how important this is, by encouraging employees to devote one day a week to focus on creative projects (otherwise known as Google's '20 per cent Time'). This has resulted in new products like Google News.
'Breakthroughs happen when people attend to their professional curiosities and set aside time for deliberate learning. Dabble time is not wasted time. It is a seedbed of innovation, a habit that expands the store of knowledge.'
Most of us are probably familiar with coming up with a brilliant idea, then completely forgetting it the next day.
Thomas Edison noted his ideas and observations in more than 2,500 notebooks: 'Edison wrote down everything he felt was worth jotting down, but he didn't feel pressure to organise the fragments immediately or unite them into an idea right away. He let that process develop naturally over a period of days, months, years.'
Talk to other people about your ideas — especially those who see the world much differently than you
Walt Disney once saw the renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski eating alone in a restaurant and decided to call him over to his table. Disney asked Stowoski what he thought of a musical piece he had just acquired the rights to, which eventually led to their collaboration on 'Fantasia.'
'Putting yourself in the line of fire of ideas is a pivotal step in the innovation process. Conversations are a primary means of stepping into that line, exposing yourself to the onslaught of ideas.'
Great ideas are usually the result of a combination of conversations, research, experience and time.
The Broadway musical 'West Side Story' was originally written as a story revolving around Catholics and Jews, not Puerto Ricans and whites, as we know it today. But the creators quickly realised that Catholic-Jewish dueling was dying down as an issue and decided to put the project aside.
The idea came back to life when the composer and writer reunited six years later and a saw a newspaper headline about gang fights between California residents and Mexican immigrants in L.A.
'Whether you have a good idea, a bad idea, or maybe an odd notion that's hard to assess at first, success will depend heavily on whether it's put into a flow of other ideas.'
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.