• CEOs know that ideas and innovation are the most precious currency in the new economy—and increasingly in the old economy as well.
  • Without a constant flow of ideas, a business is condemned to obsolescence.
  • Andrew Hargadon and Robert I. Sutton spent the last five years studying businesses that innovate constantly and they have good news for business leaders. The best of these innovators have systematized the generation and testing of new ideas—and the system they’ve devised can be replicated practically anywhere, because it has everything to do with organization and attitude and very little to do with nurturing solitary genius.
  • 2 actionable insights emerge from their research:
  • The first one is that the best innovators systematically use old ideas as the raw materials for one new idea after another. 
    This what the authors call “knowledge brokering“; companies that do it serve as intermediaries, or brokers, between otherwise disconnected pools of ideas. 
    They use their in-between vantage point to spot old ideas that can be used in new places, new ways, and new combinations.

    Taking an idea that’s commonplace in one area and moving it to a context where it isn’t common at all is not a new way to spark creativity, of course. 
    The history of technological innovation is filled with examples.
    The steam engine, for instance, was used in mines for 75 years before Robert Fulton thought deeply about the original innovation, wondered how it could be used to propel boats, and developed the first commercial steamboat. Nobody had done what Fulton had with that particular local, specific knowledge: he made the leap of applying it to the altogether different problem of powering boats and implemented it in a way that was accepted by the marketplace. The history of technological innovation is full of examples of knowledge brokers bringing together ideas from disparate contexts.
  • The second one: The companies that have been studies have found out how to make that leap again and again. Their approach was called “the knowledge-brokering cycle”.
    It’s made up of four intertwined work practices: capturing good ideas, keeping ideas alive, imagining new uses for old ideas, and putting promising concepts to the test.