How to convert almost any workplace into a “hunting ground” for breakthrough ideas
In his latest book, Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, John Dini makes brilliant use of the two core metaphors, the hunter and the farmer, when sharing his thoughts about two quite different mindsets. The business world needs hunters but at also needs farmers. In fact, Dini suggests — and I agree — that, during the last four centuries and especially during the last two, the business world has been a farmer’s world. That is to say, executives tend to be managers rather than entrepreneurs, focused primarily on increasing the efficiency and profitability of the status quo.
As Jeremy Gutsche suggests in Better and Faster, hunters need to complete three steps to formulate disruptive ideas: understand the essential conflict between hunters and farmers, explore six patterns of opportunity (i.e. convergence, redirection, reduction, acceleration, cyclicality, and divergence), and then “capture” the idea that can lead to eventual success. He explains how and why farmers can be trapped by complacency, defending the status quo while hostage to what Jim O’Toole aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.” They are vulnerable to hunters who are insatiable, curious, and willing to destroy.
These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Gutsche’s coverage:
o Awakening Your Inner Hunter (Pages 14-16)
o Hidden Secrets, Starting Fresh, and a Billionaire Author (40-43)
o Choice, Challenge, and the Underdog (46-49)
o An All-Conscious Search (52-54)
o Chaos Creates Opportunity (64-67)
o The Shotgun Approach (73-76)
o Convergence: At Trend Setter, and, Sub -Patterns (80-84)
o Divergence (85-87)
o Lawsuits, Rumors, and Jet Racing (93-98)
o Beautiful People Only (98-102)
o Sub-Patterns of Divergence (105-108)
o From “Bling Bling” to Boring (117-120)
o Getting Nasty (120-123
o Sub-Patterns of Cyclicality (127-129)
o Manufacturing Desire (138-142)
o Sub-Patterns of Redirection (142-145)
o The Power of a Niche (153-155)
o Sub-Patterns of Reduction (160-162)
o Acceleration: Three Rounds (174-179)
o Let’s Create a Business (190-196)
What Gutsche offers is a cohesive, comprehensive, cost-effective system by which to generate, evaluate, reject or refine, and then implement what can prove to be breakthrough ideas. The business world needs both farmers and hunters. Members of each group can make unique and substantial contributions to the success of the given enterprise. Farmers must avoid the traps of complacency, repetitiousness, and protectionism and hunters must avoid the traps of insatiability, curiosity, and destruction. The challenge for business leaders is two-fold: to get the best out of each group, and, to sustain an appropriate balance in their collaboration.
Just as there are several different “roads to Rome,” it is also true that there are several different patterns or approaches to opportunities for success. Gutsche focuses on six (previously identified), any one of which can be very effective. Extending the metaphor a bit, let’s view a farm as a company, as indeed all of them are: it needs what most of its workers produce to be profitable and remain in operation. However, it also needs other workers who constantly hunt for other acreage to acquire, and, for better ways — methods as well as equipment — to treat soil, plan crops, protect them, harvest them, and then go to market with them. In fact, everyone involved should have a hunter’s mindset. Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need to continuously generate lots of ideas at all levels and in all areas of operation.
A few years ago, I was retained by a Fortune 50 company to design what would become a “suggestion box” on its intranet. Initially, all employees were invited to post their suggestions: “How can we get more done in less time, do it better, and save money?” Later, the invitation was extended to customers and suppliers: “What can we can we do that would make it easier for you to do business with us?” Soon, on average, more than 500 suggestions were submitted each week and the total reached about one thousand until interest slowly evaporated. Several dozen suggestions led to substantial improvements and were generously rewarded. Of much greater importance, the workplace became what Gutsche characterizes as a “hunting ground.” Whereas better thinking was previously conducted outside the suggestion box, over time the workplace replaced that box.
Good ideas can be found almost everywhere but, with rare exception, great ideas are the result of a collaborative process, a modern day equivalent of the alchemy that was so widespread during the Middle Ages. I commend Jeremy Gutsche on the wealth of in formation, insights, and counsel he provides. Just about all business leaders need to convert their workplace into a “hunting ground” can be found in his book. Bravo!