Gallup’s CEO Jim Clifton
Gallup’s CEO Jim Clifton

’Successful builders are not risk seekers’

  • The best functioning teams combine the personality of their members with the right mix of skills and experiences
  • Cultivate self-awareness. Since being enterprising is a way of thinking, begin by understanding how you think, reason and make decisions

Economists and thinkers often look at a weak economy and say, “We have a declining economy because demand is weak or because there’s no demand at all." A more insightful observation, according to Gallup’s chief executive-chairperson Jim Clifton and the advisory company’s principal scientist Sangeeta Badal, is, “There is no demand because there aren’t enough builders who create demand." Without builders, the two say, there is no demand, no growing economy, and hence, no jobs.

Gallup’s principal scientist Sangeeta Badal.
Gallup’s principal scientist Sangeeta Badal.

In their book, Born To Build, Clifton and Badal argue that an innovation has no value until an ambitious builder creates a business model around it and turns it into a product that customers will buy.

In an interview with Mint, Badal talks about what it takes to be a successful builder and the tools needed to build a sustainable venture. Edited excerpts:

Who is a successful builder?

Someone who creates value for customers, employees, investors and the community. Whether you are a dentist building a practice, a student building a startup, or a corporate employee developing a new line of business, the key is to identify the problem you are trying to solve, recognize an opportunity, and build something that delivers value to the customer.

Is there a foolproof way to build a sustainable business?

We studied over 4,000 builders to decode the “builders’ method": what successful builders do and how they do it. In the process, we discovered four keys to building.

Born To Build: How To Build A Thriving Startup, A Winning Team, New Customers And Your Best Life Imaginable By Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Badal; Gallup Press/Simon & Schuster India; 245 pages;  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>899.
Born To Build: How To Build A Thriving Startup, A Winning Team, New Customers And Your Best Life Imaginable By Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Badal; Gallup Press/Simon & Schuster India; 245 pages; 899.

First, cultivate self-awareness. Remember, the way you are wired will influence not only what you build, but also how you build it.

Second, recognize opportunities. Opportunities are around us. Some are visible, such as a process that needs to be improved or a gap in “what is" versus “what should be", which triggers an idea. Others are waiting to be discovered. Pay attention to new developments around you.

Third, act your ideas. Figure out how to frame problems, create a minimally viable solution, find a customer, test-drive your ideas, learn from the experiments, and build a sustainable and repeatable business model.

Lastly, build a team that is functionally and cognitively diverse. The best functioning teams combine the personality of their members with the right mix of skills and experiences.

How does one cultivate the mindset of a successful builder?

Start with the question: What am I building today? Or what problem am I tackling today? Perhaps you are improving a process at work, or building a startup from scratch, or creating a new product. Seeing the world through the lens of “what can I build today" begins the process of learning how successful builders think.

Also, cultivate self-awareness. Since being enterprising is a way of thinking, begin by understanding how you think, reason and make decisions. Learn how to apply your talents by working with a coach or a mentor.

Of course, the best way to learn something is by doing it. Build something. Identify a problem you want to solve, develop a hypothesis, run an experiment to test the hypothesis. Learn from the experiment and repeat until you have an effective solution.

Are successful builders risk seekers?

No. They do everything to reduce risk. They are excellent risk-mitigators, who take an analytical approach to risk, meticulously gathering as much information as possible, creating what-if scenarios, and calculating odds of success. Replacing emotion with a rational thought process helps them overcome fear.

The investment in acquiring information helps them make smarter choices. For an outside observer, their behaviour may seem risky but for the builder who has done her homework, it is well thought through and thus carries no risk.

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