When novel behaviour patterns spread through animal populations, typically one animal will initiate the diffusion. It is not known whether such 'innovators' are particularly creative individuals, individuals exposed to the appropriate environmental contingencies, or individuals in a particular motivational state. We describe three experiments that investigated the factors influencing foraging innovation in the guppy Poecilia reticulata. We exposed small laboratory populations of fish to novel foraging tasks, which involved exploration and problem solving to locate a novel food source. Experiments 1 and 2 found that (1) females were more likely to innovate than males, (2) food-deprived fish were more likely to innovate than nonfood-deprived subjects, and (3) smaller fish were more likely to innovate than larger fish. We suggest that the sex difference may reflect parental investment asymmetries in males and females. Experiment 3 found that past innovators were more likely to innovate than past noninnovators. Collectively, the results suggest that differences in foraging innovation in guppies are best accounted for by differences in motivational state, but, in addition, guppies may vary in their predisposition to innovate. Copyright 1999 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.