Decoding Entrepreneurship

Six Traits

As the title suggests, Ms Wilkinson believes there is a secret sauce to successful entrepreneurship, a “code", and that she has cracked it. Looking for patterns in the stories of her interview subjects and their accomplishments - in totally different fields - she identified six traits that all of them had in common.

→ Find the gap

Entrepreneurs find an unfulfilled need, an unaddressed problem that needs solving. Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber did this by creating a new transportation service out of existing resources, solving the problem of unavailable taxis. Or, they take something thait works in one place and transplant it to another place. Howard Schultz modelled his coffee chain Starbucks on informal coffee houses in Italy. Or they integrate things so that the combination is something unique - like the Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle's freshly-cooked fast food.

→ Gift small goods

They do favours "for the people around them and show kindness - even in small ways. This makes others want to work with them, or share ideas and information, which helps them on their journey.

A sociology major with an MBA, Stanford-educated Ms Wilkinson has worked at McKmsey & Co, JP Morgan, the White House and Harvard University. She has also been an entrepreneur herself and now teaches entrepreneurial leadership at Stanford Business School.

She believes entrepreneurship can indeed be taught. “In the nature-nurture debate, I'm on the nurture side,” she says. "We can teach people how to find a gap. We can say, look for something you’d really love to pick up and re-apply somewhere.

→ Fail wisely

They recognise that not everything they try will succeed. But they set a quantum of loss they are willing to accept.

→ Network minds

They tap into different minds. Rather than seeking validation of their own views, they encourage differences of opinion to arrive at new solutions to problems. With the rise of complexity and the speed of change, the era of the dictatorial leader is passe. No one person can be the fount of knowledge. Great entrepreneurs recognise that.

→ Drive for daylight

Entrepreneurs always look forward, not in the rear-view mirror; they focus on what remains to be done, not on what’s already been achieved.

→ Fly the Ooda-loop

They observe, orient, decide and act ('ooda'). They observe what their competi-. tors, or incumbents, are doing, then try to get ahead of them by changing the dynamics of the competition in such a way that that the competitor ends up responding to a situation that has already passed.