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The Sef-Made Billionaire Effect

December 30, 2014


What if Steve Jobs and Steve Case’s talent for value creation had been recognized and harnessed by their former bosses?

What if Steve Jobs and Steve Case's talent for value creation had been recognized and harnessed by their former bosses at Atari and PepsiCo before they left and created Apple and AOL? The Self-Made Billionaire Effect, authored by veteran corporate strategists, John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen of PwC, gives executives an invaluable blueprint for identifying characteristics of potential value producers, who may very well have that next billion-dollar idea tucked into their back pocket.

Through this unprecedented, in-depth study of self-made billionaires, Sviokla and Cohen identify the key differentiator of massive value creators by what they call the "producer" versus "performer" mind-set. While the majority of companies reward "performers" – those who delight audiences with their perfect execution – most do not proactively mine and cultivate "producers" – those who have the potential to create massive value and redefine what is possible.

The Self-Made Billionaire Effect identifies five key traits, or habits of mind, among extreme value creators:

  • Empathetic Imagination— Having empathy for the customer's needs and wants coupled with an imaginative mind-set to come up with and explore new, untested ideas.
  • Inventive Execution—Designing and executing a customer experience that others considered fixed and therefore unlocking new value.
  • Relative View of Risk—Being more concerned about missing opportunities to redefine the future than with pushing an idea that fails.
  • Patient Urgency—Being prepared to seize an opportunity but having the patience for that opportunity to fully emerge.
  • Producer-Performer Partnership—Building partnerships between individuals with complementary skills and mutual trust.
Producers don't achieve extreme success on their own. Each works closely with a performer to bring the envisioned new product or service to fruition. Companies need to focus not only on identifying and supporting producers, but also on pairing them up with suitable performers.

More than 80 percent of the Producers analysed made their fortunes in highly competitive industries. The implications for companies are clear. "Opportunities exist in every marketplace if they are approached through the right habits of mind," said Sviokla, head of Global Thought Leadership, PwC. "It's up to businesses to understand their role in energizing talent so they are best positioned to deliver that value."

"Business leaders must learn to identify individuals who possess both good judgment and imaginative vision and bring them to life within an organization, said Cohen, vice chairman of PwC. It's these individuals who trust their instincts enough to take game-changing risks and unlock new value."

About the Authors

John Sviokla is the head of Global Thought Leadership at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP). He serves a variety of Fortune 500 clients on the topics of strategy and innovation and runs The Exchange, the firm's think tank. John has held various leadership roles at PwC as well as at other public and private companies. A former member of the Harvard Business School faculty. John has written for the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Sloan Management Review and has appeared on CNBC and Fox News.

Mitch Cohen is vice chairman at PwC. During his 33-year career at the firm, including more than 20 as a partner, he has served numerous Fortune 500 clients. Mitch has also helped to guide the firm's strategy as well as its initiatives around innovation and corporate responsibility.

About PwC US

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