Amy Wilkinson, management expert, author and Stanford University lecturer
Gandalf Hammerbacher

Why Successful Businesses Need Diversity, Agility and Creativity

Amy Wilkinson is one of the world’s leading innovation and entrepreneurship experts. We asked her about the secrets of founders and companies who manage to rise to the top.

Few people have studied business success stories quite like DLD23 speaker Amy Wilkinson. For her book The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, the innovation expert spoke with more than 200 entrepreneurs, including the founders of LinkedIn, Airbnb and Yelp.

At Stanford University, Wilkinson is a Lecturer in Management and Organizational Behavior. With her company Ingenuity, she helps enterprises stay agile and adapt to quickly changing competitive environments.

Ahead of our DLD Munich conference from January 12-14, 2023, we asked Amy Wilkinson what it takes to rise to the top – and then stay at the top – when innovation is the key driver of economic growth.

What’s the secret of a successful entrepreneur?

Extraordinary entrepreneurs are “creators” who aren’t necessarily born with an ability to build and scale companies successfully.  They feed their curiosity and embrace their love for learning, questioning, and overcoming setbacks.

What can corporations learn from nimble startups?

Companies need to incorporate an entrepreneurial mindset to make decisions more quickly than the competition. Legacy companies can improve their decision-making velocity and “Fly the OODA Loop” by (1) focusing on relevant data in real time; (2) dividing decisions into different tiers and delegating decision making; and (3) course correcting quickly when needed. Entrepreneurial thinking will help corporations develop resilience and a sustained culture of agility. Executives need to stay curious and focus on the horizon, as I explain in a feature article on my Stanford class.

OODA Loop: From Military to Management

OODA Loop explained, info graphic by DLD

The OODA Loop is a concept originally developed by former fighter pilot John Boyd. The acronym stands for “observe-orient-decide-act”. It describes the ability to quickly adapt to, and respond to, changing environments. In the age of digital change, the concept has become popular in management theory as well. In her book The Creator’s Code, Amy Wilkinson describes “flying the OODA loop” as one of the six skills that extraordinary entrepreneurs need to acquire.

How important is diversity, and what should companies do to foster it?

Diversity impacts key metrics of business success, including bottom line performance, innovation, and employee retention. Both inherent diversity (gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation) and acquired diversity (traits gained from experience) can increase complex problem solving and encourage employees to propose novel ideas. Leaders can foster a culture of diversity by designing shared spaces, teams with mixed areas of expertise, creating flash teams, and holding prize competitions.

What kind of company culture do you see when you look beyond now?

The future culture of successful businesses will have a culture founded in leveraging entrepreneurial skills at every level. Teams will see failure as a learning opportunity, and employees are empowered to spot opportunities and contribute new ideas.

James Landay, Amy Wilkinson and Andrew Keen discuss human-centered AI at DLD Munich 2023

A Call for Human-Centered AI

Watch Amy Wilkinson’s DLD23 session with James Landay and Andrew Keen

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