Idea Hunter Confidential: Jim Pulcrano
Today we are starting the first in a series of interviews with the world’s best “idea hunters.” My goal in featuring these interviews is to give you more insight into the routines and processes of those who stand out for their ability to generate—and take action on new ideas. I’m calling it “Idea Hunter Confidential” because it’s rare that we talk about our own unique idea hunting processes.
First up: Jim Pulcrano, Executive Director at IMD
Jim is a successful, innovative, and top flight marketing expert. He’s also an idea hunter extraordinaire! In his senior executive role at IMD, the best business school in Europe, Jim works with top-flight faculty and executives from firms around the world to shape superb executive education experiences. He is a member of the IMD team that delivers one of the world’s best Executive MBA Programs, and Jim has designed and leads their yearly excursion to Silicon Valley. He has no spare time, but that doesn’t stop him from pursuing a doctorate degree in management, which he’ll complete this year. Most importantly, he’s a terrific husband, father, and friend.
I wanted to interview Jim because he stands out for being diligent in his hunt for ideas and below you can learn from one of the best.
Boynton: In terms of advancing your goals and objectives in life, where do you search for great ideas (websites, people, conferences, mags, etc.)? And can you describe how frequently you hunt in those places?
Pulcrano: I search in many places, simultaneously and continuously. I make sure that I attend one event per month where I’m not likely to know many people; it’s painful, because I’m shy, but I always come away with a few new ideas, insights or contacts. There are a few people I follow on Twitter because they inevitably serve up ideas and websites that I wouldn’t see otherwise. I receive the SiliconValley.com First Edition webletter each day to get technology and Valley news. I also receive and read the IMD and Grist webletters, and read two newspapers every day (local and international). Whenever I am visiting an IMD client I am actively probing and listening for information and ideas that are new to me. I also listen closely to what my two oldest children are hearing, seeing and doing at college.
Boynton: When you find great ideas, be they from a conversation or something you scan, what do you do with them? Do you store them? How? Do you put them into play and show them to people? How do you handle interesting ideas once you find them?
Pulcrano: I always, always write new ideas down, so that I don’t forget (If it’s something I’ve read, I tear it out). I also try to share them immediately with at least one other person so that I get an echo that tells me whether this idea has legs (and it helps me to remember, by having a conversation around the idea). If it is an operational idea at IMD, I’ll float it with a few colleagues immediately, to see their reactions. Almost always, if it’s something really odd to me, I’ll Google it and then start a paper file on it.
Boynton: Can you think of a few big ideas you’ve found hunting and what they led to? How’d you find those big ideas? How’d you take them and turn them into something important to you?
Pulcrano: The Web. Back in the early 90s, when I was IMD’s director of marketing, I was trying to figure out how to differentiate us. Someone told me about this smart alum who always seemed to have novel ideas. We met, and he told me about this WWW thing… I signed up to Compuserve 2 days after that and 4 months later we launched IMD’s website. That guy is now a successful venture capitalist in Beijing, with investments in Tibet. To track down big ideas you have to hunt for smart people who are operating on the edge.
Boynton: Thank’s Jim. This is terrific. I’m like you–I write every idea down that sounds interesting, or I tear out a page—whatever, as not to lose the idea! I had never heard of this one—The Grist webletter—and it really caught my eye, can you tell us more about it?
Pulcrano: Environmental news and green living tips from Grist, the most recognizable voice in environmental journalism. Learn more at www.grist.org.
A big thanks to Jim Pulcrano for the great interview—what an idea hunter! For more information on Jim and IMD, please visit www.imd.org.
How do you hunt ideas?