The Creator's Code by Amy Wilkinson

Each of us has the capacity to spot opportunities, invent products, and build businesses—even $100 million businesses.

How do some people turn ideas into enterprises that endure? Why do some people succeed when so many others fail? The Creator’s Code unlocks the six essential skills that turn small notions into big companies. This landmark book is based on 200 interviews with today’s leading entrepreneurs including the founders of LinkedIn, Chipotle, eBay, Under Armour, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Spanx, Airbnb, PayPal, Jetblue, Gilt Groupe, Theranos, and Dropbox.

Over the course of five years, Amy Wilkinson conducted extensive interviews and analyzed academic research across many different fields. From the creators of companies as diverse as Yelp, Chobani, and Zipcar, she discovered the true commonalities that underlie entrepreneurial success. Creators are not born with an innate ability to conceive and build $100 million enterprises. They work at it. They all share fundamental skills that can be learned, practiced, and passed on.

Entrepreneurial success, Wilkinson demonstrates, is accessible to everyone.

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The Six Essential Skills

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. I characterize creators who master these approaches as Sunbirds, Architects, or Integrators.

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.

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.

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 I call failure ratios, place small bets to test ideas, and develop resilience. They hone the skill to turn setbacks into successes.

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.

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 book is based on 200 interviews with cutting-edge creators
including the founders of many of today’s leading companies.

airbnbJoe Gebbia is the cofounder of Airbnb, a website for people to rent out lodging. It has over 800,000 listings in 34,000 locations and 192 countries.

ChipotleSteve Ells is the founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, which combines the speed and convenience of fast food with the high quality ingredients of traditional restaurants.

DropboxDrew Houston is the cofounder of Dropbox, a file-hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software.

ebayPierre Omidyar is the cofounder and Chairman of eBay, and cofounder of the philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network.

GiltAlexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkins Wilson are the cofounders of GILT Groupe, an online store which provides access to high-end fashion at incredible discounts.

ideoDavid Kelley is a cofounder of IDEO, a global design and innovation consultancy firm that provides design-based marketing solutions for the public and private sectors.

innocentiveAlph Bingham is the cofounder of Innocentive, an “open innovation” company which promotes research and development through prize competitions.

jawboneHosain Rahman and Alexander Asseily are cofounders of Jawbone, an audio technology company that developes and sells wearable technology and portable audio devices.

jetblueDavid Neeleman is the cofounder and former CEO of JetBlue Airways, and most recently the Founder and CEO of Brazilian airline Azul.

linkedinReid Hoffman is cofounder and Executive Chairman of the professional networking site LinkedIn, and a Partner at the venture firm Greylock Partners.

opowerAlex Laskey and Dan Yates are cofounders of Opower, a Software-as-a-Service company that partners with utilities around the world to promote energy efficiency.

palantir2Joe Lonsdale and Peter Thiel are cofounders of Palantir, a computer software and services company that specializes in data analysis.

participant mediaJeff Skoll is founder of Participant Media, the Skoll Foundation, and the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund. He is the first President of eBay.


paypalPeter Thiel is a cofounder of Palantir technologies and PayPal,  an international digital wallet-based e-commerce business.

revolution foodsKirsten Tobey and Kristin Richmond are cofounders of Revolution Foods,  a food and beverages company that provides access to high-quality, affordable meals in schools and in stores.

spacexElon Musk is founder of SpaceX, a private space exploration company that designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.

spanxSara Blakely is a founder of Spanx, a company that specializes in foundation garments, including undergarments and bodysuit shapewear.

Stella & DotJessica Herrin is a founder of Stella & Dot, a boutique-style jewelry company that creates flexible entrepreneurial opportunities for women.

teslaElon Musk is founder of Tesla Motors, a company that designs, manufactures, and sells electric vehicles.

theranosElizabeth Holmes founded Theranos, a health technology and medical laboratory services company that provides blood tests.

threadless Jake Nickell is a cofounder of Threadless, a global community-driven design platform that features designs created by various designers, artists, and general consumers.

under armourKevin Plank is founder and CEO of Under Armour, a brand known for its apparel, shoes, and accessories designed for sports & fitness.

yammerDavid Sacks is founder of Yammer, an enterprise social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations, and business applications.

zipcarRobin Chase is a cofounder of Zipcar, a peer-to-peer carsharing company.

The Creator’s Code is more than your average business book.
Five years of research reveal counter-intuitive truths:

How solving your own problem can turn into a billion-dollar business

What edge five-year-olds have over Fortune 500 executives

Why the future requires getting comfortable being uncomfortable

Why failing wisely leads to success

What’s wrong with consensus

How generosity leads to productivity

Why it's no longer about being first

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