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Get Ahead by 'Borrowing Brilliance' of Other People

Friday, 18 Sep 2009 | 1:04 PM ET

Some of the best bosses I've ever worked for have never had an original thought. Never!

What they had instead, was the ability to hear an idea and make it great. Everyone thought they were brilliant. And they were–and they’re not alone.

There’s a whole class of geniuses who, if you will, are extremely successful because they borrowed someone else’s ideas.

Borrowing Brilliance
Borrowing Brilliance

Author David Murray calls it, “Borrowing Brilliance.”

In BORROWING BRILLIANCE: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others, Murray gives us many examples of how so-called thought leaders, CEO’s and companies have built world-class companies by taking someone else’s ideas and making them better—making them their own.

Examples include Darwin and Einstein, Newton and the Google guys, George Lucas and Johannes Gutenberg, and Steve Jobs.

Murray is my guest blogger today, sharing more about his theory in this post.

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Guest Blog: "Recognizing a Great Idea by David Murray, author of "Borrowing Brilliance."

Last week I watched Steve Jobs take the stage in San Francisco to the delight of reporters, developers, entertainers and other guests. He was there to introduce Apple’s new IPOD line up, but the news of the day had nothing to do with new products or new features to existing products.

The news of the daywas about Steve himself: What was he wearing? How did he look? What did he say?

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

No other CEO is as respected and revered as Steve Jobs.

But why? What makes him so intriguing? What does Steve have that other don’t?

The answer is, of course, a lot of things.

But the one thing that sets him apart, the one thing that makes him so successful, is his ability to lead innovation, and more specifically his ability to know a good idea when he sees it.

In the 1980’s he saw a demonstration at Xerox of the mouse and graphical user interface (GUI) and instantly recognized it as the perfect technology combination for the personal computer. He borrowed the idea and created the Mac.

In the 1990’s he saw a demonstration of a new animation software program developed by George Lucas and company. He bought the company from Lucas and combined it with great storytelling and created Pixar and the first computer-animated feature film: "Toy Story."

And about ten years ago he saw the first MP3-player and recognized it as a truly innovative form or personal entertainment. He combined that with an integrated website (ITunes) and cutting edge industrial design from Jonathan Ive and created the IPod. Steve Jobs has what we call in the business: Creative Intuition. The ability to sense a good idea.

This is a result, no doubt, of his contrasting personality traits.

You see, Steve is notorious for being highly critical one moment and highly optimistic the next, often about the exact same idea. Over time, this gives him a sense of the idea he is looking for: it’s one that has “these traits” (from his optimistic viewpoint), but doesn’t have “those traits” (from his pessimistic viewpoint).

You and I will never possess this skill to the same degree that Steve has, for it’s innate in his personality, but we can develop it by consciously doing what he does subconsciously. By being both optimistic and pessimistic as we develop new ideas and solve our own problems. As Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine, said, “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”

And intuition, my friends, is the result of positive and negative judgments.

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Author David Murray
Source: David Murray
Author David Murray

David Murray is the author ofBORROWING BRILLIANCE: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others.In the past, however, he’s been an entrepreneur, a scientist, a salesman (selling nuclear weapons),a marketing executive, an innovation leader (for a Fortune 500 software company), a web designer, a CEO, an inventor (he’s got a few patents to his name), a rock climber, skier, a mountaineer (he’s summited Mt. McKinley) , and – now – a writer. At one point in his career, he made millions of dollars from a single, simple idea; at another point he filed for personal bankruptcy protection (unfortunately, in that order).You can read more about him on his website, www.borrowingbrilliance.com

If you have a book you'd like to suggest for Bullish, email me at bullishonbooks@cnbc.com

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