What makes wildly successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg so successful? Is it creativity or perseverance? Giving the customer what they want or treating employees right? Being playful or being driven? Being in the right place in the right time or creating markets?
Some say that creativity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Every business owner doesn’t need to have a brilliantly creative idea: there are plenty of ideas available Jim Beach, author of “School for Startups” told an interviewer on Entrepreneur Addiction Radio. Lendio.com reports that Beach tells want-to-be entrepreneurs to stop waiting for the earth-shattering idea and just take an idea and run with it, to tell themselves: “I’m going to be an executer, instead of a creator.”
Author of “The Everyday Entrepreneur” Rob Basso agrees. On Lendio’s podcast, he points out that plenty of successful businesspeople aren’t revolutionising the world but making a great living running a small business or two. An ordinary life can become an extraordinary one. Beach says: “Entrepreneurs are the people that stand up and say, ‘I am going to be the one to execute that idea better than anyone else has ever done it.’”
What about the customer-comes-first idea? When we value the customer we’re able to really listen and learn what they want and need. Many successful businesses have been built around these needs. In this vein, creativity takes a back seat and the customer provides you with your innovative foundation. But Steve Jobs never based his products on customer needs, market analysis or any consumer research. Entreprenuer.com reports that Jobs said: “The consumer doesn’t know what he or she wants until we make it,” and CNN Money.com reports he asked: “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?
Jobs always stressed the importance of his own intuition in creating markets. His description of “connecting the dots,” of gaining gut-feeling glimpses of relationships between very different and separate things whether they were life experiences or whispers of change in technology sound very much like what happens when people are fully engaged in creative “flow.”
CNN reports that Paul McCartney dreamed the melody to his hit song “Melody.” Albert Einstein was said to have been struck with the theory of relativity when he was dozing. Larry Page, cofounder of Google started his work after dreaming about downloading the entire web onto computers. That’s why Page implemented the 70-20-10 rule at Google. Employees spend 70 percent of their time working on core projects; 20 percent on “adjacent areas and expansion” and 10 percent of their time on whatever interests them. Google understand that employees will come up with their best ideas when they are given free time — that’s when creative and playful thinking occur.
Bill Gates told CNN that the key to Microsoft success was hiring smart people and allowing them to work in small teams. He says that it’s important to hire committed people that have different ideas and skill sets so that constructive controversy occurs.
Herb Kelleher, CEO of Southwest Airlines, was also careful about the people he hired. He had no qualms about claiming that his employees came first. CNN reports that he believed treating your employees well in turn creates great customer experiences. He respected his employees and encouraged them to take on stock options and profit-sharing plans so that they all took ownership of the company. Steve Jobs has been described as abusive, tyrannical and settling for nothing less than perfection from his employees but he was inspiring and visionary all the same. He understood that mistakes were part of the journey and had unfaltering perseverance in all of his ventures. And that may perhaps be the most important quality in successful entrepreneurs, that they truly have vision, that it is evident to others, that others believe and commit to this vision themselves.
Infosys’ Narayana Murthy told CNN that a shared value system among his employees helped the company to transform the Indian economy. His employees bought the vision and were willing to endure frustration, work hard and sacrifice in order to realise the shared vision they had.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey told CNN that he once considered making a profit from selling organic food a “necessary evil.” Today, Whole Foods employees commit to selling the highest quality natural foods, they commit to delighting and satisfying their customers, and they take pride in their part in protecting the environment. This is truly a vision that can inspire creative thinking, perseverance and employee commitment and engagement. Vision is what an idea can become after you’ve committed to it.
The author is an executive coach and HR training and development expert.
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