The Secret of How to Think Like an Entrepreneur | Amy Wilkinson | TEDxPaloAltoSalon

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everywhere we look the world is changing

with technology with political systems

even the way we interact with each other

how do you not only survive but thrive

in a world of change what's the secret

sauce of Silicon Valley we're here at

the epicenter people are trying to

figure that out

so I believe the secret is to think like

an entrepreneur I had the great

privilege to interview some of the most

successful entrepreneurs people like

Elon Musk building SpaceX and Tesla the

founders of Spanx LinkedIn 23andme

companies like Airbnb I'm constantly

asked everyone comes up and says who's

your favorite entrepreneur and the

answer might surprise you my favorite

entrepreneurs are Nadine in red this is

my almost 101 year old grandmother and

her one two hundred and six year old

boyfriend red okay so why why you know

why are they my favorite entrepreneurs

because they're curious they're

constantly learning they're constantly

questioning they're overcoming setbacks

and they really believe tomorrow will be

better than today yes my grandmother has

some aches and pains I mean she's a

hundred she's breaking triple digits

yes she's retired so she had a career as

a nurse and yes she's left the home

where she raised her four children and

yes she lost her partner her husband

after 62 years but she's not complaining

and she's not complacent you know she's

challenging the status quo and looking

for something better she's a shining

example of thinking like an entrepreneur

you know she could have thought she was

too old to venture out she could have

stayed in a retirement center watch TV

stayed with the people around there had

meals delivered to her room but instead

she ventured out she loves music and she

went to a local concert every single

Saturday she went to support local

musicians and that's where she found

read so she got out of her comfort zone

you know here's where the comfort zone

is and here's where the magic happens

and they are not the same place so of

all the entrepreneurs that I interviewed

200 of them in fact what I started

learning was they got comfortable being

uncomfortable they didn't stay in their

comfort zone they pushed forward that

pit in your stomach they thought ok this

means I'm building something important

I'm gonna put something into the world

that people really need now it's not an

innate ability to think like an

entrepreneur people are not just born

thinking like entrepreneurs they work at

it and I'd like to share three of the

skills that come out of my research and

the important thing here is they apply

to each and every one of us we can all

think like an entrepreneur the first is

fly the OODA loop so this stands for

observe orient decide act it's

originally a fighter pilot mantra and I

have a very good friend who's a fighter

pilot West Hallman he told me if you

want to think like an entrepreneur you

think like a fighter pilot and here's

why if you can get inside the loop the

decision circle you can observe orient

decide and act faster than a competitor

you can win in a dogfight right a

competitor is reacting to a landscape

that's already changed you took a

decision you took an action there a

split-second behind that's the same in a

really entrepreneurial world and we live

in an entrepreneurial world an example

is a fabulous one is PayPal so Max

Levchin Peter Thiel and Elon Musk come

together and they start PayPal we all

know what that is today but they go

through six different business models

right six different things they try in a

year and a half in eighteen months

they're moving through as quick as they

can observing orienting deciding and

acting they raise money on a technology

where they could beam cash between Palm

Pilots I don't know how many people

remember the Palm Pilot that's gone

PayPal is still around right one of the

things they observed was that people on

eBay we're trying to transact and they

were using this demo website you know to

support the beaming product at any rate

PayPal moved to create an online

currency then eBay bought a competitor

they had so many more resources people

money still the PayPal team moved faster

at one point Visa credit card company

tried to sue with a PayPal startup

saying now you're in our credit card

business and what they did was convinced

Visa to just study the problem for 12

months okay never study the problem

because while visa is studying the

problem the PayPal team's observing Oren

team deciding acting in winning in the

marketplace so they sell to eBay now the

much more interesting thing is what

happens next the original twelve to

eighteen people at PayPal they go on to

seed the entire next wave of the

internet they are the founders of

YouTube LinkedIn Yelp slide Digg Tesla

Motors they certainly start SpaceX they

founders fund 500 startups they're the

first money invested behind Mark

Zuckerberg at Facebook

they literally seed the entire next wave

when you spend time with them I've spent

time with all of these founders you say

how is that possible you didn't just do

it once but you did it

you fanned out and did it over and over

again and what they'll say is the first

thing you think yeah that's not it you

have to observe orient decide act you

have to keep moving so

Jeremy Stoppelman at Yelp he said you

have to look for a counterintuitive blip

of data something that doesn't make

sense and follow it so Yelp was started

as an email referral system and they did

not think anyone would want to write a

review Jeremy did not think that would

be fun and then what he found out is

everyone wants to review the nail salon

the restaurant the dry cleaner and so

they quickly moved and said okay Yelp

will be a review site YouTube was

started for video dating this was a

video dating startup until they shot

video at a local zoo they were just

practicing uploading and shooting video

and everyone started watching the video

of an elephant okay if you're doing a

video dating site that doesn't make

sense but if you really quickly move to

observe that take decisions take actions

we know what YouTube is today it's the

website where you can see all things

video all the cat videos you want to see

in the world right there there so these

are successful entrepreneurs but they

have absolutely moved through different

decision cycles it's about thinking like

an entrepreneur and every single one of

us can do that this is an important

point so if you are going to be flying

an Oda loop you have to have a fierce

team with you you need a wingman you

need a wingwoman so there's great

research out of Northwestern and says if

you want to solve a problem alone you

can do that a lot of people try to solve

problems alone and your success rate is

about 44% if you get other like-minded

people and many of us try to gravitate

right towards our friends then you can

solve a problem a little bit better at

about 54% of the time if you bring in an

outsider someone who thinks totally

differently your solve rate goes up

significantly and you solve

approximately 75% now here's the

counterintuitive take away from this

here's the surprise it's not because of

the person who's diverse who comes from

the outside it's because each single

person raises their game when we think

we're going to be challenged

by someone who disagrees with us who

gets out of the comfort zone who

challenges the status quo we do our

homework we show up prepared we're more

focused on the problem we're more

willing to articulate a point of view so

having an outsider come in actually

raises our own performance it's

something really important to think

about it's uncomfortable but it makes us

stand a little taller and do a little

bit better all right not just flying the

Ute aloof but failing wisely is

important so if you think like an

entrepreneur it doesn't mean that you're

never going to fail in fact the

entrepreneurs that I interviewed in this

research project they are failing all

the time but they're failing wisely so

what does that mean it means they're

setting a ratio right one in five things

I try won't work that's what I'm going


or one in ten things and different

people will set different failure ratios

the idea is that you don't want a zero

ratio a zero ratio means a perfect

record and that means you haven't tried

something new you haven't actually

pushed into the innovation curve so this

is Jessica Heron she's found her Stellan

dot previously the founder of wedding

channel comm and what she says is one in

three that's four ratio one in three

things she tries won't work and that's

what she's going for at Stella and I'd

she's got a workforce of stylist it's a

woman's direct selling company and she

just tells the stylist you know give me

the feedback as fast as possible love it

or lose it love this product lose it out

of our inventory and they will lose one

third and that's success for Jess at

Google Eric Schmidt instituted a

70-20-10 ratio right 70 percent of your

time on core business 20% of your time

on side business-related 10% on total

moonshots that 10% is most likely

failure but it also may produce just

spectacularly wonderful results now

we've talked a little bit about

incremental failure but what if you

absolutely run into a catastrophic


what if you're the captain of the

Titanic you hit an iceberg that is a

really big problem the Titanic had 2,200

people on board they had 16 lifeboats

okay what are you gonna do we all know

what happened in this story right in two

hours and 40 minutes the Titanic sank

only 705 people survived less than a

third of the people survived but what if

you could think like an entrepreneur

what if you could be resourceful even in

that terribly desperate moment what if

you could think to yourself hmm what do

I have on this boat that will keep

people alive there were tables wooden

tables lots of them those would stay

afloat you could use deck chairs as

paddles you could use the car tires

there were cars and trucks aboard as

floating inner tubes what if you could

even use the iceberg as an island the

iceberg was known to be about 400 feet

long and it was not going to sink what

if you could use your life boats as

ferry boats and ferry passengers over to

stand on the ice Island there would have

been ways to save lives if you could

think in a different way you know I used

this example a couple weeks ago I was

teaching at Stanford we were teaching

executive education to Hispanic

entrepreneurs and this is a case the

Harvard Business Review has recently put

forward we were talking about it how can

you be resourceful how can you fail

wisely and one of the Hispanic

entrepreneurs came up to me so excited

at the end of the day and said I run a

company out of Chicago I ran a legacy

construction business and we are

struggling and now I think I could fail

wisely I could repurpose some parts of

my company I could repurpose some of the

resources that I own I can also go back

to Chicago and I can think like an


that is really exciting and that's what

gets me you know so thrilled with this

dataset and with the skills every single

person can hopefully take them and

improve the kind of work that they're

doing now it's not only flying a noodle

loop and failing wisely but another

skill that I really think is important

is what I'm calling gift small goods so

what's a small good right it's a small

kindness it's something of value that

you can do for someone else it's a

five-minute favor right so what does

that look like you could write a few

lines of code you could critique a

proposal you could forward a resume you

could make an introduction little things

that we can do creates huge opportunity

for other people now why is it important

to do well it's always been sort of

morally right to help out your

colleagues but we've had a saying nice

guys finish last

okay here's the really interesting thing

about technology now nice guys finish

first and the reason is your reputation

will be known it will be transparent if

you are gifting small goods you will be

helping those around you and other

people will hear about it information

will come to you people will want to

work with you

talent will come your way deal flow will

come your way that actually makes you a

lot more productive the opposite is also

true if you are hoarding resources if

you're cheating people if you're

harassing people we will know about that

and this is changing just in the last

few years the speed of communication and

the transparency of our reputation means

that we will know so it's in your

self-interest to be gifting small goods

and generously helping and assisting

those around you now the person that I

know who does this best especially in

all of the 200 interviews I did is a man

named Bob Langer and when people ask me

who would you like to be most like in

all of those interviews that you did I

say I would like to be like Bob Langer

and here's the reason why he has a

reputation for integrity and he creates

tremendous opportunity for everyone

around him now I'm never gonna be a

chemical engineer he's a scientist

he runs a the world's largest bio

technology engineering lab it's at MIT

he has co-founded 40 companies that have

scaled up he has 350 different licenses

with pharmaceutical companies you know

close to a hundred thousand three

hundred papers that are published he is

putting into the world some of the

greatest technologies to stop human


that's what Bob's trying to do and as he

does it he brings along so many other

people when you ask him what he's most

proud of he says my students you know

they're kind of like my kids

I'm so proud as they succeed in the

world now bob has succeeded himself we

don't necessarily know his name but all

of the things that he's done we do know

about he's the pioneer of human tissue

engineering he's the pioneer of many of

the cancer delivery drugs most all of

them in fact he's even making synthetic

vocal cords so that Julie Andrews of the

sound of music might sing again there

are so many wonderful things that he's

bringing into the world he says that

it's important to some gift small goods

and support other people because in his

own career he had a rocky start he had a

PhD from MIT and Chemical Engineering

but he wanted to teach high school and

he sent out 40 letters and he got 40

rejections and then he thought okay

maybe I could be an engineer in the

medical space and he started sending

resumes and calling absolutely no one

responded until one person did a man

named Judah Folkman and he was a Boston

Children's Hospital and Folkman gave Bob

Langer a first opportunity and supported

him Folkman was a cancer surgeon and

that's where most of

Bob Langer's work has been applied so

Bob Langer has said you know so many

opportunities were created by this one

person from him it said him on his whole

path to doing what he's doing so the

question for all of us is who are we

helping you know who who are we bringing

along who are we pushing forward in the

world if we want to create things the

world hasn't seen it's difficult to do

and I believe life is a search for

allies we have to go out and help each

other that brings me back to all of the

people who've helped me there have been

many along this path starting with my

grandmother you know I really do think

she's an embodiment of what Eleanor

Roosevelt said which is the future

belongs to those who believe in the

beauty of their dreams Nadine has

definitely lived that for many years now

I believe that the future belongs to

those not only who believe in the beauty

of their dreams but those who will take

action and those who will make their

dreams a reality

so may you go into the world and think

like an entrepreneur and may you use

that ability to benefit the world thank