Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation


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I always remember a statement by Sir Isaac Newton, the man who developed the principles of universal gravitation. He is quoted as saying, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

In his book, “Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others,” David Murray states, “An idea is a solution to a problem….. A brilliant one is a really, really creative one, one that’s better than any other solution…”

You can find more about the book at

So what are his Six Steps? Here are some excerpts:

Step One: Defining

Define the problem you’re trying to solve. A creative idea is the solution to a problem. How you define the problem will determine how you solve it. Mistakes result from solving too narrow or too broad a problem. So, identify as many problems as possible using tools like observation, and then sort problems from high level to low level.

Step Two: Borrowing

Borrow ideas from places with a similar problem. These are the construction materials for your own solution. Start with your competitors, then look to another industry, and finally look outside business to the sciences, arts or entertainment to see how they solve that problem.

Step Three: Combining

Connect and combine these borrowed ideas. Making combinations is the essence of creativity. So, using the borrowed materials from the last step, find an appropriate metaphor to structure your new idea. In other words, use an existing idea to form the framework for a new idea by establishing a metaphor, extending it, and then discarding it if it no longer works.

Step Four: Incubating

Allow the combinations to incubate into a solution. The subconscious mind is better at making combinations. To do this, give the subconscious time to work, and quiet your conscious thought so you can listen to the subconscious speak. For instance: sleep on it, pause, put it away, exercise or do physical work, or listen for misunderstandings. In other words, often the most effective thinking is not thinking at all.

Step Five: Judging

Identify the strength and weakness of the solution. Judgment is the result of viewpoint. Intuition is the result of judgment. Use positive and negative judgment to analyze your solution and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the idea. This leads to creative intuition: an idea that has these things (positives) but not those things (negatives).

Step Six: Enhancing

Eliminate the weak points while enhancing the strong ones. Ideas evolve through trial and error. They self-organize. Return to the first five steps to make or adjust your idea: re-define; re-borrow; re-combine; re-incubate and re-judge it all. The order you do these things will be different with every idea as your creative process creates itself.

Thanks, Dave, for making this so straightforward. More information can be found at:

Innovation for your own business will come from your own brilliance and your fellow business associates. But sometimes it helps to have a mentor or business coach help you hone in on the problem and identify similar problems and how others solved them. In my own business, I’ve enjoyed the process of combining ideas and seeing what the metaphors that emerge teach me.

Contact me if you’d like me to accompany you on your creative journey to the future.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dick Wooden
CRM specialist to help you get the answers you need with sales, service, and marketing CRM software. I help mid-sized businesses select, implement and optimize CRM so that it works the way their business needs to work. My firm is focused on client success with remarkable customer experience, effective marketing and profitable sales using CRM strategy and tools.


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