I really don’t know how I heard about David Kord Murray’s book, Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others. It could have been recommended to me by Amazon.com or I could have read a book review of it while traveling. Nonetheless, I found the concept intriguing enough to purchase a copy. The book stimulated so many ideas that I could not wait to pick it up again whenever I had the chance to read a few chapters.
Murray is one of those interesting people that few of us have the chance to meet. He was educated as an engineer, graduating from the University of Vermont in 1982, and later obtained his MBA from Pepperdine University. Early in his career, while at McDonnell Douglas, he had the opportunity to work on the Space Shuttle program as well as the MX missile. Later, he went into the financial services business, founding several companies and later working at Intuit as its head of innovation.
Borrowing Brilliance is essentially the roadmap to how Murray taught himself to become an innovator. Murray organized his system into six steps. The first three steps are involved with the origin of the idea. Step One is Defining, for defining the problem that you’re trying to solve. Step Two is Borrowing; Murray recommends borrowing ideas from places with a similar problem. Step Three is Combining, where you examine connecting and combining the borrowed ideas that you believe relate to solving your problem. The last three steps involve the Evolution of the Idea from solution to implementation. Step Four is Incubating, where the combinations created in Step Three are incubated into a solution. Step Five is Judging, where the strength and weakness of the solution are examined. The final step, Step Six, is Enhancing. In this step, Murray recommends eliminating the weak points of the solution while enhancing the strong ones.
One of the strong points of this book is the way in which Murray brings his personal experiences from the three businesses that he started to the businesses started by other people we know like George Lucas, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Steve Jobs. The concept of using a metaphor to transform your idea into reality is excellently illustrated by Murray’s description of the evolution of George Lucas’ Star Wars script into the phenomenally successful movie series. According to Murray, George Lucas knew that he wanted to create a science fiction movie, but kept running through a hodge podge of ideas such as science fiction and Western, science fiction and spy story, etc. Finally, he figured that the right combination was science fiction and mythology and with that borrowed combination, created a unique movie that attracted movie goers like no other movie in history.
Murray also has a blog which has some insightful and worthwhile information along the same lines as the book. I enjoyed Borrowing Brilliance so much that I bought a few extra copies and gave them away to colleagues of mine. In an age where knowledge is increasing exponentially, it is helpful to have a system like Murray’s that provides you with an interesting way to define and solve problems.