6 Essential Skills of Elon Musk

February 17, 2015

10:00 am

“I worry a lot about failure, and I feel fear quite strongly,” Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk told Amy Wilkinson in an interview. “If you believe something is important enough, then even if you are scared, you still keep going.”

The ability to fail is one of the entrepreneurial skills outlined in Wilkinson’s book The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, which launches today. An entrepreneur, advisor to corporations and startups, and lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Wilkinson spent the past five years interviewing over 200 entrepreneurs – including the founders of LinkedIn, Chipotle, Airbnb, PayPal, and Dropbox – and surveying the academic literature.

Her conclusion? Entrepreneurship is not an inborn talent, but a skill that’s learnable and teachable. She aims to teach it in her book, which describes these six essential creator’s code skills in depth:

  • Find the gap: In essence, you can see opportunities that are invisible to others. That may involve creating your own path or remixing ideas from different domains.
  • Drive for daylight: You focus on your goal and vision, not your competition.
  • Fly the OODA loop: OODA stands for “observe, orient, decide, and act.” This means that you iterate quickly, testing assumptions and course-correcting.
  • Fail wisely: You are willing to fail today to avoid total failure tomorrow. You take calculated risks and deliberately test ideas that might or might not work.
  • Network minds: Your success comes from bringing together a diverse collection of people who complement your skills and question your ideas.
  • Gift small goods: Being generous and helping others strengthens your relationships and benefits you in the long run.

As winning startups become household names, more and more researchers are turning their microscopes on entrepreneurs to see what makes them so successful. Steve Blank’s lean startup methodology became a class at Stanford University, for example, while the Society for Effectual Action researches the mindset of standout entrepreneurs.

To grab a copy of The Creator’s Code, head over to Amazon.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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