Defining Your Own Hunt

An Idea Hunter looks to other people for ideas, but also subscribes to Apple's motto: “Think different.” Is there a contradiction here? Not real y. The principal task is to step outside for ideas, to go beyond our own brains, because most of the ideas are elsewhere. But part of the chal enge is to look for the kinds of ideas in the kinds of places that are likely to trigger something new and different. And that is why people need to take various paths in their search.

Our point is not that idea professionals should think like everybody else, or, conversely, should ignore everyone. It's that al professionals need to involve other people in their search for ideas. And they need to create their own map of The Hunt, which involves knowing your gig — what makes you different, among other things. The gig points your interest in certain directions, gives you a broad sense of what you need to learn, to achieve your goals. The work continues with decisions about the particular sources of information and ideas that constitute your map. Which ones are most likely to ramp up the value of a project you're working on? Which ones wil contribute to a distinctive Hunt?

One story we're fond of teling is about the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who said, “There is no one so stupid that he does not have something sensible to say.” He even looked upon dogs as “intel igent companions” in his perilous journey to the South Pole. He went to live among the Eskimos of Greenland, with the intent of learning al he could about their technologies, habits, and culture. He learned many valuable lessons, including the importance of maintaining a balanced diet while on expedition (to avoid vitamin deficiencies) and the need for ample rest and relaxation. He was deeply interested in what other people knew.

At the same time, he didn't listen only to what Europeans were saying about polar adventures, as most of his competitors did. Those sources were necessary — they included navigational experts, cartographers, and others — but not sufficient. They were not different and varied enough to produce the results he wanted; they were the same sources tapped by al the others in his field. And Amundsen was not going to let the other explorers define his Hunt, his search for ideas about how to win the Arctic chal enge, the early-twentieth-century race to the South Pole. He went his own way, but not in a solitary way — he went toward people.

His interest in the customs of indigenous people was written off by many who saw these native inhabitants as “primitive” and “lazy.” Some of his rivals tragical y perished in the snow and ice, for lack of the knowledge that native communities had accumulated over centuries about how to survive long polar journeys. In 1911, Amundsen and his party became the first to reach the South Pole, largely because he defined his own Hunt.

Even in the safer precincts of New York or New Delhi, and almost everywhere in between, being interested can save your professional life.

Almost by definition, interest means being interested in more than just a few things — and more than what people like you are saying and thinking.

That is the chal enge taken up more ful y in the next chapter.

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