In my opinion, Jim Clifton is one of the most important and yet least appreciated business thinkers now discussing the global marketplace. Written with Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, his latest book makes an urgently needed distinction between inno0vation and entrepreneurial innovation. As he explains, “Innovation is essential, and we need it. But the real magic starts with entrepreneurs – with people who are born with the rare gift to build successful businesses. Years ago, Thomas Edison observed, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Clifton obviously agrees. “An innovation has no value until an ambitious entrepreneur builds a business model around it and turns it into a product or service that customers will buy. If you can’t turn an innovative idea into something that creates a customer, it’s worthless.”
I agree that it is “worthless” in terms of its commercial value. However, many so-called “failures” in experimentation or prototyping can be of substantial value in terms of what can be learned from them.
With regard to leadership, consider these observations: “During my 40 years at Gallup, I’ve observed that when very talented leaders fail, it’s often because their thinking failed them. Not their management or leadership skills, but their thinking about a core belief that they put at the center of all their strategies. Because they are so wrong about that core belief, every subsequent decision actually makes things worse, because every decision is tied to that belief. The more they manage and lead, the worse things get…Here’s what leaders need to know: Jobs and GDP growth [begin italics] do not [end italics] follow innovation. Jobs and GDP [begin italics] do [end italics] predictably follow entrepreneurship. Put another way” Entrepreneurs create customers. And customers, in turn, create jobs and economic growth. Almost no leader knows this.”
I share Clifton’s concern about the nature and extent of impact (i.e. damage) about a core belief that drives the strategic decisions of many (most?) business leaders. I hope this book attracts wide and deep interest among those now in a position to get their companies — and our nation — back on track. “Because we have misdiagnosed the cause and effect of economic growth, we have misdiagnosed the cause and effect of job creation. To get back on track, we need to quit pinning everything on innovation, and we need to start focusing on the almighty entrepreneurs and business builders. And that means we have to find them.”
Many who read this book may be curious to know (a) what the defining characteristics of a risk-taker are, and (b) whether or not they possess sufficient risk-taker talent. Jim Clifton devotes all of Part 3 to a rigorous and thorough examination of what he views as the “Ten Talents of Successful Entrepreneurs.” Then, as a substantial value-added bonus, a packet is inserted at the end of this volume. It contains a unique access code to the “Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder Assessment,” all by itself worth at least ten times the cost of the book. This access code is valid for one use only. Do not buy a copy of this book if its packet has been opened.
* * *
Since 1988, Jim Clifton has served as CEO of Gallup, a global leader in consulting, public opinion research, and analytics. Under his leadership, Gallup has expanded from a predominantly U.S.-based company to a worldwide organization with 30 offices in 20 countries and regions. He is the creator of The Gallup Path, a metric-based economic model that establishes the linkages among human nature in the workplace, customer engagement, and business outcomes. This model is used in performance management systems in more than 500 companies worldwide. His most recent innovation, the Gallup World Poll, is designed to give the world’s 7 billion citizens a voice in virtually all key global issues.
Clifton is the author of The Coming Jobs War and co-author of Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, as well as many articles on global leadership. His blog appears regularly in the Influencer section of LinkedIn and on Gallup.com’s Chairman’s Blog. He serves on several boards and is Chairman of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. He has received honorary degrees from Jackson State, Medgar Evers, and Bellevue Universities.