The Creator’s Code by Amy Wilkinson



Amy Wilkinson is a strategic adviser, entrepreneur, and lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. For this book, she interviewed over 200 successful entrepreneurs and synthesized the patterns that helped them build great companies.

12 lessons

The Creator’s Code

– by Amy Wilkinson –

1) Find the gap

By staying alert, creators spot opportunities that others don’t see. They keep their eyes open for fresh potential, a vacuum to fill, or an unmet need. Creators tend to use one of three distinct techniques: transplanting ideas across divides, designing a new way forward, or merging disparate concepts.

2) Don’t lose your natural curiosity

Preschool children ask nearly a hundred questions a day. As we grow older, though, many of us become less inquisitive. Making the effort to ask questions can sharpen our alertness to opportunities.

3) Drive for daylight

Just as race-car drivers keep their eyes fixed on the road ahead, creators focus on the future, knowing that where they go, their eyes go first. Creators move too fast to navigate the confines of their lane or the position of their peers. Instead, they focus on the horizon, scan the edges, and avoid nostalgia to set the pace in a fast-moving marketplace.

4) Fly the OODA Loop

Creators continuously update their assumptions. In rapid succession, they observe, orient, decide, and act. Like legendary fighter pilot John Boyd, who pioneered the idea of the “OODA loop,” creators move nimbly from one decision to the next. They master fast-cycle iteration and in short order gain an edge over less agile competitors.


5) Fail wisely

Creators understand that experiencing a series of small failures is essential to avoiding catastrophic mistakes. In the course of practicing and mastering this skill, they develop resilience by placing small bets in order to test ideas. They hone the skill to turn setbacks into successes.

6) Network minds

To solve multifaceted problems, creators bring together the brainpower of diverse individuals through on and off-line forums. They harness cognitive diversity to build on each other’s ideas. To do this, creators design shared spaces, foster flash teams, hold prize competitions, and build work-related games. They collaborate with unlikely allies.

7) Design an environment for open discussion

Creators build loyal teams consisting of people with fiercely independent points of view. They foster the open exchange of ideas across functions and departments and cultivate vigorous debate. Healthy debate improves decision making and prevents the kinds of easy answers embraced by competitors. Too much consensus is a recipe for disaster.

8) Diversity is essential for innovation

In groups where everyone looks the same, the norm is to not rock the boat. We often put social concerns ahead of voicing unique points of view. When we surround ourselves with dissimilar people, a social dynamic is created in which people have to explain why they agree or disagree with others. It may make us feel uneasy, but it pushes us to solve the problem at hand. By interacting with more diverse minds, creators move beyond routine thinking to come up with greater insights.

9) Teams should have a mix of old and new members

If team members have little experience working together, they can struggle to communicate. Collaborating repeatedly with people you’ve known a long time speeds communication based on shared trust and an understanding of how they approach problems. But if team members are too familiar with one another, original ideas tend to be stifled. Newcomers bring fresh concepts and skills. The optimum is a mix: Teams operate best with both old and new members.

10) Gift small goods

Creators unleash generosity by helping others, often by sharing information, pitching in to complete a task, or opening opportunities to colleagues. Offering kindness may not seem like a skill, but it is an essential way that creators strengthen relationships. In an increasingly transparent and interconnected world, generosity makes creators more productive.

11) Be self-aware

Creators are transparent about shortcomings and acknowledge when they need help. Self-awareness is crucial. They don’t hide from failure or hide failure from others.

12) Do something meaningful

It’s easier to accept setbacks when you are convinced your work matters. Creators are passionate about what they do, and that devotion allows them to endure hardships that come their way.