Monday, April 20, 2015

Book of the Month - April 2015 - The Creator's Code

One of my resolutions for 2015 was to read (and blog about) at least one book a month.  This month I veered back to non-fiction for my book of the month selection.

The Creator's Code:  The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs by Amy Wilkinson, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2015 (ISBN: 978-1-4516-6605-2; Ebook:  978-1-4516-6609-0). 

As an Etsy seller, I am an entrepreneur, and in my day job at the University of Nebraska College of Law Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic,  I encounter a vast array of startup entrepreneurs.  So this little book on entrepreneurship seemed like a logical pick.  I've been curious -- what makes some startups soar, while others plod along, and still others fail?

Amy Wilkinson interviewed 200 entrepreneurs who started companies that now generate more than $100 million in annual revenue or social enterprises that serve more than 100,000 people -- a pool she dubs "extraordinary entrepreneurs."  She then set about attempting to identify skills that helped these entrepreneurs create the synergy and momentum to become hugely successful.

She identified six essential skills that each of the entrepreneurs possessed:

1.  Find the gap.

The successful entrepreneurs were able to design new ways forward, transplant ideas across divides, or merge disparate concepts. 

2.  Drive for daylight.

The extraordinary entrepreneurs were focused on the future.  They kept driving forward at a fast pace.  They didn't focus on how far they'd come, but how far they still had to go.

3.  Fly the OODA loop.

OODA is an acronym for Observe - Orient - Decide - Act (repeat)
These business leaders were able to fast-cycle iterations -- they kept adapting and changing.

4.  Fail wisely.

This one seemed like an oxymoron to me, at first.  But small failures seemed to be essential to avoid catastrophic mistakes.  Successful entrepreneurs place small bets to test ideas and develop resilience to abandon or adjust as needed.  They set tolerances for "failure ratios," and turn setbacks into successes as they discover what works, and what doesn't. 

Wilkinson quotes Samuel Beckett:  "Ever tried? Ever failed?  No matter.  Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

In Etsy terms, that may mean testing new products -- some will catch on, others will sit idle on my cyber shelves.  But we keep trying new things, and gauging the changing needs and demographics of our customers.

5.  Network minds.

Successful entrepreneurs don't go it alone.  They bring together brainpower from diverse individuals and collaborate with sometimes unlikely allies.  In Etsy, that immediately brings to mind Teams and Etsy Forums.

6.  Gift small goods.

Creatives tend to want to help others, and strengthen relationships.

For an engaging animated summary of Amy Wilkinson's findings, check out this very short Kauffman Sketchbook video. 

Wilkinson closed with this inspiring challenge (p. 194):

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.

It's a thought-provoking book, a quick read,  and one I'd highly recommend for free-lancers, entrepreneurs, or Etsy sellers.



  1. Sounds like an excellent book! I like the OODA concept! Funding/cash flow is also a major factor to consider.

  2. I like this review, but the best quote for me is your own:
    "In Etsy terms, that may mean testing new products -- some will catch on, others will sit idle on my cyber shelves. But we keep trying new things, and gauging the changing needs and demographics of our customers." Great advice for Etsy sellers!!!