Jack Covert Selects

The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

February 26, 2015


Amy Wilkinson reveals the six skills shared by all great entrepreneurs.

The Creator's Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs by Amy Wilkinson, Simon & Schuster, 240 pages, $27.00, Hardcover, February 2015, ISBN 9781451666052

Collectively and individually, we in business fall into the “brilliance trap”; we too often ascribe to successful entrepreneurs the amorphous trait of brilliant. More and more, though, books are being written that debunk the idea that great leaders and innovators have a magical quality with which the rest of us were not lucky enough to be born. We dug deep into this during last month’s Thinker in Residence with Kevin Ashton (How to Fly a Horse). Another book carrying the torch for demystifying genius and brilliance is Amy Wilkinson’s book The Creator’s Code.

Creators are not born with an innate ability to conceive and build $100 million enterprises. They work at it. I found that they all share certain fundamental approaches to the act of creation. The skills that make them successful can be learned, practiced, and passed on.

There are no wasted words in The Creator’s Code, as Wilkinson gets straight to the point; there are six skills that the most successful entrepreneurs all have in common. Before we get to those six things, though, we think it’s important to share how the author discovered those six shared qualities.

The research is based on grounded theory method, widely used in qualitative analysis...To test and support my conclusions, I immersed myself in the literature relevant to entrepreneurial endeavor from the fields of organizational behavior, psychology, entrepreneurship, economics, strategy, decision theory, and creativity.

There are 14 pages of reference material at the end of the book to back it up, too. Amy Wilkinson didn’t just theorize that something was true, she worked hard, and worked thoroughly, for five years to find the things that are true.

Each chapter in The Creator’s Code breaks down one of the six fundamentals skills using examples of successful creators to back up the research. For example, in the second chapter, titled “Drive for Daylight,” Wilkinson uses one of our favorite stories to demonstrate the importance of being able to look past current circumstances and to the point where the business will be successful in the future. A key ability in driving for daylight is avoiding nostalgia:

”If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would that man do?” Andy Grove, president of Intel, asked Gordon Moore, CEO and chairman, in 1985. “A new CEO would get Intel out of the memory chip business,” Moore responded. Grove thought for a moment, then replied, “Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back, and do it ourselves?” That’s exactly what they did.

All great creators Drive for Daylight. The also have the ability to pinpoint voids in the world, update their assumptions, learn from failure, and harness cognitive diversity. And, one skill that is way too often overlooked in great creators, they “unleash generosity by helping others, often by sharing information, pitching in to complete a task, or opening opportunities for colleagues.” What comes around goes around, right?

We couldn’t be more thrilled for books like The Creator’s Code, if for no other reason than they continue to demonstrate that we all have the ability to create. They also do their small part to extinguish the disingenuous rock star, lone-genius, magical unicorn CEO myth. But there are other reasons we’re thrilled. This is an easily digestible guide to get us moving, to get the next idea closer to product or launch. All of our business baggage won’t make truly learning Wilkinson’s six skills a walk in the park, but knowing they are learnable is the first step.

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