Wilkinson Keynote: Entrepreneurial Skills for Knowledge Sharing #KMWorld

KMWlogo_Stacked_Session Description:

Sharing knowledge for enterprise success requires entrepreneurial skills, new ways of thinking and operating, continuous learning, and change. There are many new tools available to help, but it is the people and the culture of an organization that determines its ultimate success. Wilkinson interviewed 200 of today’s top entrepreneurs, including the founders of Airbnb, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Yelp, Dropbox, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, Chipotle, Under Armour, Spanx, Jetblue, and Revolution Foods, to distill what it takes to go from startup to scale in our rapidly changing economy. As leaders reinvent their approaches to digital transformation for organization survival in this economy, they can learn these fundamental skills, practice them, and pass them on. Join our accomplished researcher and speaker as she shares her framework and provides ways to master the skills that underlie entrepreneurial success.

Speaker: Amy Wilkinson, Founder & CEO, Ingenuity and Lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business; Author, The Creator’s Code: Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Find the Gaps.
    • Be curious:
      • children ask 100 questions per day; adults ask 2-3 questions per day. This is due, in part,  to our development of expertise, which leads us to create our own silos. This, in turn, becomes our Achilles heel that stops us from becoming innovators and entrepreneurs.
    • Be an architect:
      • Look for the open space: find a green field on which to build.
        • Elon Musk — see a problem and then go back to first principles to solve it. He saw that space shuttles were like airplanes that were thrown away after every flight. He thought this made no sense. So he started SpaceX to figure out how to make cheaper, reusable shuttle.
      • Solve a problem for yourself and then scale the solution for others.
        • Sara Blakely — she solved the pantyhose/underwear problem for herself. Because she was the first woman to tackle this problem, she had a real challenge convincing the men in the industry. So she did it herself: she taught herself how to file a patent application, her mother (an artist) drew the schematic. Blakely kept going until she found a manufacturer with daughters who was willing to listen. She persisted.
    • Be an integrator:
      • Look for opportunities for innovation at the intersection of disciplines, industries, markets.
      • Chipotle: the founder was a classically trained chef. He wanted to create fast meals from fresh food. So he mashed together his classical culinary training with the fast food process. This created a restaurant at which a chef would be willing to eat.
  • Drive for Daylight. In this fast-moving world, act as if you are in a race car. You have to focus on the horizon, not on what is right in front of us. Typically, most businesses focus on what is right around them or, worse still, they focus on the rearview mirror.
    • Avoid Nostalga: you can’t be nostalgic about the past  — especially if you’ve had tremendous success. Netflix had big success with DVD by mail but overcome customer protests to move from that to streaming.
    • Fire yourself: Andy Grove at Intel used to talk about the importance of “firing yourself.” They asked themselves (when they thought they might be fired becuase of the poor performance of their business), what would our successor do? The answer was to get out of the old business and then move into the microprocessor business. This led to extraordinary growth.
    • Be prepared to cannibalize your own products — Apple does this time after time.
    • Focus on “to go” rather than “to date.” This keep your focus forward — on the problem you need to solve, on the product you need to ship. This allows you to meet your near-term goals.
  • Fly the OODA Loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.
    • Eventhough the Russians had better fighter planes, the American air force has maintained
    • Paypal: they merged two businesses and then went through 6 different business models in 18 months.
    • Paypal Mafia: then after they sold PayPal to eBay, they all tried new ventures and have been successful.
      • Jeremy Stoppelman: The first thing you try likely will not work. So look for a “counterintuitive blip of data” that could point to a new, more profitable path.
      • Always have a wingman: this is someone who will question your assumptions and help improve your thinking
    • Startups view business as a form of intellectual debate. This enable fast action. In a large organization, people aim for consensus. However, this can be too slow in a fast-moving world.
  • Fail Wisely. This goes beyond failing fast. Have a failure ratio (e.g., 1/10 things I try won’t work or 1/3 things I try won’t work.) The key is NOT to aim for zero. This means that you are aiming for perfection, which will shut down your innovation and risk-taking.
    • Place small bets:  don’t put all your money on one bet. Place small bets on several opportunities.
      • Stella & Dot: their ratio is 1/3. She counts on her team to make fast decisions on new products: “love it or lose it”
    • Titanic Example: You know you have a catastrophic problem (e.g., you’ve hit an iceberg). You know how many people you have and you know how many lifeboats you’ve got. What do you do?
      • Reframe the problem: switch from saving the ship to saving lives. Then you use the lifeboats as ferries to move people from the ship to the iceberg where they can stay until rescue boats arrive.
      • Repurpose what you’ve got: Look for alternatives that can function like life boats (e.g., anything that floats will work — tables, doors, etc.)
  • Network Minds. We need to focus on cognitive diversity, not just visible diversity. The goal is to harness different points of view and then build on that.
    • IDEO Approach: use space
    • Amazon’s two-pie rule: they want folks to work in teams — but small teams that can be fed by two pizzas. Then they get to know each other and can get things done.
  • Gift Small Goods. Provide small kindnesses to others. Do five-minute favors. This helps amplify your reputation because of connectivity. Then information, opportunities come to you.
    • Generosity enhances productivity — Bob Langer at MIT is always trying to amplify the work of his students in their drive to ending human suffering. The are regrowing human tissue (including vocal chords for Julie Andrews and Larry Page). They produced the nicotine patch. They have developed many innovative delivery mechanisms for cancer treatment.
    • Focus on the “snuggle for existence.” This will help enormously with the struggle for existence.