Creators are not born with an innate ability to conceive and build $100 million enterprises. They work at it. They all share certain fundamental approaches to the act of creation. The skills that make them successful can be learned, practiced, and passed on.
6 Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs
#1. Find the Gap
By staying alert, creators spot opportunities that others don’t see. They keep their eyes open for fresh potential, a vacuum to fill, or an unmet need. Creators tend to use one of three distinct techniques: transplanting ideas across divides, designing a new way forward, or merging disparate concepts.
#2. Drive for Daylight
Just as race-car drivers keep their eyes fixed on the road ahead, creators focus on the future, knowing that where they go, their eyes go first. Creators move too fast to navigate by the confines of their lane or the position of their peers. Instead, they focus on the horizon, scan the edges, and avoid nostalgia to set the pace in a fast-moving marketplace.
#3. Fly the OODA Loop
Creators continuously update their assumptions. In rapid succession, they observe, orient, decide, and act. Like legendary fighter pilot John Boyd, who pioneered the idea of the “OODA loop,” creators move nimbly from one decision to the next. They master fast-cycle iteration and in short order gain an edge over less agile competitors.
#4. Fail Wisely
Creators understand that experiencing a series of small failures is essential to avoiding catastrophic mistakes. In the course of practicing and mastering this skill, they set what the author calls failure ratios, place small bets to test ideas, and develop resilience. They hone the skill to turn setbacks into successes.
#5. Network Minds
To solve multifaceted problems, creators bring together the brainpower of diverse individuals through on- and off-line forums. They harness cognitive diversity to build on each other’s ideas. To do this, creators design shared spaces, foster flash teams, hold prize competitions, and build work-related games. They collaborate with unlikely allies.
#6. Gift Small Goods
Creators unleash generosity by helping others, often by sharing information, pitching in to complete a task, or opening opportunities to colleagues. Offering kindness may not seem like a skill, but it is an essential way that creators strengthen relationships. In an increasingly transparent and interconnected world, generosity makes creators more productive.
The six essential skills are not discrete, stand-alone practices. Each feeds the next, creating synergy and momentum. The diagram below demonstrates how the skills connect and build on each other
When a creator brings together all six skills, something magnetic occurs. Creators attract allies—employees, customers, investors, and collaborators of all kinds. Customers become evangelists. Employees turn into loyalists. Investors back the company with support that transcends financial returns.
Believing in Yourself, Believing in Your Idea
The cornerstone of creators’ success is their unshakable belief in their own abilities and powerful desire to bring change to the world. It takes optimism, figuring out what needs to be done, then taking action. The promise isn’t that it will be easy, but that it will be worth it. Yelp started slowly before it became a business review site; it took Tesla Motors seven years to manufacture its first car; Revolution Foods has brought healthy meals to underprivileged students one school at a time. Every breakthrough has a backstory.
“You have to believe you can get to the other side,” Jawbone cofounder Hosain Rahman told me, describing how he has met the challenge of making complicated hardware and software simple to use. “You have to believe that uniqueness matters,” Peter Thiel said. “You need the conviction that you can build things and change things and improve people’s lives,” Max Levchin declared. “I grew up on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and to me the idea of entrepreneurship is this really romantic notion of capitalism.”
Creation is at bottom an act of faith, a commitment to a dream of the future. All of us hold within ourselves the potential to become creators, and the expanding universe of entrepreneurship provides infinite pathways for us to explore—if we dare. Look at the world around you. It’s a world that’s perpetually changing, perpetually being made. Only you can seize the tremendous power that is yours and become one of the world’s creators.