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Learn from the Best: 10 Key Insights from Forbes’ 100 Greatest Living Business Minds

Discover what makes the savviest minds in today’s business world tick and find inspiration for your next venture.
by Joshua H. Phelps | Oct 23 2017

Forbes Magazine recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. In commemoration, it released a list of the world’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds, which included names like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Shonda Rhimes. Their experiences – and the books subsequently written about them — offer numerous lessons to people thinking about pursuing their own dreams or those already on that journey. Here are ten particularly shiny nuggets of wisdom from those who appeared on Forbes’ list.

1. Know What You’re About

from Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Sometimes you might feel like you have too many interests. It seems easier to do nothing when they all vie for attention. How does Elon Musk overcome the paralysis from such saturation? This is the guy who has worked on electronic payment systems, electric cars, and rocketry. Part of Musk’s solution is to have a bigger goal: ensuring the survival of humanity. Once you’ve found your own goal, you’ll find ways to incorporate your interests into achieving it.

2. Innovation Often Evolves from Failure

from Think Like Zuck by Ekaterina Walter

It can be tempting to think that because something didn’t work out the first time, it isn’t worth pursuing. But if Mark Zuckerberg had scrapped his plans after FaceMash failed, we wouldn’t have Facebook. Failures can lead to reassessments, and an idea rarely emerges in perfect form on the first try. By using unsuccessful attempts to solicit feedback and further develop, better outcomes will follow.

3. Stay Open to Inspiration

from Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson

As a young man, Branson noticed how much people spent on records and how popular mail-order catalogs were. In combining the two, he was able to sell LPs and EPs for lower prices. From that, the Virgin empire was born. Sometimes disruption can be as simple as looking at how existing ideas can be combined or used in new and novel ways.

4. Communication is Critical for Workplace Equality

from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Modern offices are becoming increasingly diverse. However, stereotypical thinking in a company’s culture can create an environment where good ideas are disregarded or held back. By fostering teams in which open and clear communication allows employees to provide ideas and receive constructive feedback, companies can turn this multitude of perspectives into opportunities for advancement and innovation.

5. Base Your Decisions on Data

from Buffett by Roger Lowenstein

To paraphrase an old saying, you shouldn’t judge a company by its market value. Warren Buffett learned this in college, and applied it afterward. Through diligent research, he was able to discover companies with low market values and high intrinsic values. He quickly leveraged this difference to build a highly successful portfolio. A shrewd eye on the numbers allows you to keep a clear head and distinguish which investments are overhyped and which are worthwhile.

6. Provide Growth Opportunities

from How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

How can a company retain its employees? The fact that employers bring on people with a diverse skillset holds the key. By offering challenges that touch on someone’s strengths and interests, businesses can keep employees motivated. Broadening responsibilities also helps. Schmidt kept an engineer at Google for two more years by bringing him into the decision-making process.

7. Trust, and Hold Accountable

from The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

The reams of data at companies’ disposal these days can make it tempting to quantify every aspect of workers’ time. Walking this line between accountability and trust helped Jacqueline Novogratz provide a number of community-empowering investments. From an individual rice-seller to national governments and NGOs, she discovered that trusting people to know what they want, while also making sure they followed through on their plans, improved their sense of dignity and proved key to her successes.

8. Extend Your Reach Early

from Strategy Rules by David B. Yoffie and Michael A. Cusumano

Starting out, you might be tempted to sign an exclusive deal with a major player in your industry. But does that mean you’ll reach the most customers? Bill Gates faced that conundrum while he developed DOS. IBM offered to feature the OS on their computers, but Gates turned them down and opted to license DOS to many brands at a low price. By playing a long game, Gates turned Microsoft into an industry powerhouse.

9. Incorporate Civic Virtue Into Your Business Model

from Building Social Business by Muhammad Yunus

Center your business around solving a social issue. Yunus argues it actually fits well within current thinking. By taking on a particular problem, profits become necessary to create and maintain a solution. There is a liability that shareholders may place earnings ahead of resolving the problem. However, by communicating your intentions up-front, you set yourself on the path to creating social benefit and a profitable enterprise.

10. Make Time for Yourself

from Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

TV producer Shonda Rhimes’ personal drives helped her to achieve successes with shows like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. In time, she came to realize this focus also had a negative impact on her family, her friends, and herself. By making changes in her priorities, Rhimes found that she received greater fulfillment in the time she spent with other people and in the further accolades she received for her work.

And it’s not just these ten. You can find more books in the Blinkist library from the minds Forbes picked, such as Marc Benioff, Howard Schultz, and Michael Eisner. If you’re interested in areas beyond business, Blinkist’s extensive selection covers other genres of nonfiction. Download the Blinkist App and discover what more there is to learn.

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