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Lessons For 2013: Business Wisdom From Airbnb To Zappos

We asked an array of innovative thought leaders what they learned in 2012. Their responses were enlightening and often surprising. Scroll this page for bite-sized bits of tweetable business wisdom to carry into 2013--and tell us what YOU learned in 2012 using the submission form below. We'll publish your best #Lessons2013 on Fast Company's website.

Browse #lessons2013:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Part 1

The best way to make employees happy is to set realistic goals and achieve them. Read More

Leila Janah, CEO, Samasource

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Most important lesson I learned: The importance of early action, early engagement with colleagues. Read More

Inge Thulin, CEO, 3M

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If clients aren’t willing to compromise and learn our company culture, then we shouldn’t do the project. Read More

Marcus Samuelsson, Chef and Founder, The Marcus Samuelsson Group

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You can survive any type of distraction if you stay focused on the organization’s mission. Read More

Doug Ulman, CEO, Livestrong

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I want each company in my portfolio to think about how they are enabling their employees’ entrepreneurial spirit. Read More

Reid Hoffman, Partner Greylock

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Most startups are focused on growing faster. That alone would not make us a great company. Read More

Brian Chesky, CEO, Airbnb

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The business community doesn’t know what design really is. The challenge for me is to educate. Read More

Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer, Pepsico

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For any consumer brand today, it is incumbent upon the company to create relevancy. Read More

Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks

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We have to invent an internal culture that can manage dichotomies. Read More

Luke Wood, President and COO, Beats By Dr. Dre

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Make sure your structure is efficient before piling more people on top of it. Read More

Ben Lerer, CEO, Thrillist

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When we weren't hot anymore, the tenor of the press changed. Read More

Dan Porter, Former CEO, OMGPOP, creators of Draw Something

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This kid drove 900 miles to get ahold of a Doritos Locos Taco. It became inspiration for the commercial. Read More

Brian Niccol, CMO, Taco Bell

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We had to let go of our identity as a web company to follow our users into mobile. Read More

Travis Katz, CEO Gogobot

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It's important to respond to literally every tweet, Facebook message, and so forth. Read More

Brit Morin, CEO, Brit + Co.

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It's better to elicit passion than a lukewarm response. Read More

Randi Zuckerberg, CEO, Zuckerberg Media

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The Model S's 17-inch touchscreen can make the customers go "Wow." But then you pop the "Frunk"… Read More

George Blankenship, VP, Worldwide Sales, Tesla

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We've launched "To Get Her There" to give girls skills they need to be leaders in 25 years. Read More

Anna Maria Chavez, CEO, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.

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Part 2

We've found people will give us 30 to 60 seconds to connect them with the things they need and love. Read More

Steve Yankovich, VP, Ebay Mobile

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Entrepreneurship is a new corporate function. Read More

Eric Ries, Author, The Lean Startup

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You can't fool the public. Content has to be really good, if not exceptional. Read More

Thomas Tull, CEO, Legendary Entertainment

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Listen to your customer both in person and online, and make changes to fine-tune the experience. Read More

Kevin Desanctis, CEO, Revel Entertainment

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We have to stay one step ahead by doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Read More

R.J. Williams, CEO, Young Hollywood

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Ideas go nowhere if they stay in your head. Everything has to be communicated to the people who execute on ideas. Read More

Dennis Crowley, CEO, Foursquare

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The highest-paid opinion matters the least. Data from experiments is critical so that the best idea can prove itself. Read More

Brad Smith, CEO, Intuit

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As startup founders, we often wait for things to stop changing. Enjoy change as it happens. Read More

Rashmi Sinha, CEO, SlideShare

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We have to think about everything that goes on in our members' lives, beyond just what they're doing in the club. Read More

Sarah Robb O'Hagan, President, Equinox

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Our employees and customers are increasingly interested in why they should be part of our business. Read More

Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group

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The Internet of things is emerging. Everyday objects are becoming connected. Read More

Warren East, CEO, ARM, Microchip Design Company

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Executives need to design structures that amplify, rather than encumber, remarkable talent. Read More

Sam Yagan, CEO, Match Inc.

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In order to shift industries and behaviors, it's imperative to be patient. Read More

Cyrus Massoumi, CEO, ZocDoc

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Our cardinal rule was to do what's best for our students. Read More

Daphne Koller, Co-CEO, Coursera

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User interface and industrial design must build an identity together. Read More

Yves Behar, Designer And Founder, Fuseproject

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In 2013, I'm going to take one day a month to visit non-technology companies to get inspiration. Read More

Clara Shih, CEO, Hearsay Social

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Reach B2B audiences with the same kind of fun, interactive content once reserved for consumer marketing. Read More

Tom Yorton, CEO, The Second City Communications

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No matter what problems or opportunities arise, never stop focusing on the product. Read More

Mark Pincus, CEO, Zynga

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Customers understand and appreciate the value of paid content. Read More

Bob Bowman, CEO, MLB Advanced Media

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Part 3

We thought we'd be an online company. Then the week after Christmas mobile sales went from 5% to 10%. Read More

Tobi Lütke, CEO, Shopify

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In six months we expanded the number of cars in the market fifteen-fold. Read More

Shelby Clark, Chief Community Officer, RelayRides

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Mobile, social, and search have become more meaningful than any website home page. Read More

Rob King, Senior VP, Editorial, Print, And Digital Media, ESPN

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You can't teach someone how to be superfriendly. Read More

Neil Blumenthal, Co-CEO, Warby Parker

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Goals are important. But it's the "aha" moments on the way to the goals that have taught me the most. Read More

Fiona Morrisson, Former Brand And Advertising Director, JetBlue

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You can manifest all types of luck depending on your outlook and actions. Read More

Raina Kumra, CEO, Juggernaut

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Feelings of inadequacy sometimes creep in. But the abilities that got me where I am today will help me. Read More

Majora Carter, President, Majora Carter Group

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It's very easy to think that you are the expert on your own product. The true experts are your customers. Read More

Jamie Wong, CEO, Vayable

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Don't just create more exceptions to the rules. Rewrite them. Read More

Jeffrey Hollender, Cofounder, Seventh Generation

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When you hire great people, despite the cost, great things will happen. Read More

Jonah Peretti, Cofounder, Buzzfeed

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Next year I'll set more realistic goals so our employees can have a healthy work-life balance. Read More

David Chang, Chef and Founder, Momofuku

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There is no tried-and-tested path in engineering. You try, and fail, and fix, and fail again. Read More

James Dyson, Founder, Dyson

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When you put information out there, that's a transaction. You need to feel you're getting something in return. Read More

Margaret Stewart, Director Of Product Design, Facebook

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Innovation is often the result of random conversations--collisions. We want to accelerate those collisions. Read More

Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos

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I only have room for things in my life that feel great and have purpose. Read More

Pharrell Williams, Music Producer And Entrepreneur

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Once you master something, don't be content to polish and refine your game. Read More

Robin Willner, Former IBM Executive; Now VP Of Funder Engagement, Growth Philanthropy Network

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Avoid the overvalued and invest in the undervalued. Sounds so simple! Read More

Troy Carter, Manager, Lady Gaga

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In product development, compromise is inherent, but it never pays off. Read More

Robert Brunner, Founder And Partner, Ammunition Design Group

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Commitment to the vision trumps funding, technology, gold-plated degrees, and press. Read More

Marci Harris, CEO, Popvox

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Part 4

I must take a holiday at least once each year if I want to survive! Read More

Maelle Gavet, CEO, Ozon Holdings

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Great people are attracted to great visions. Read More

Sal Khan, Founder, Khan Academy

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Work-family isn't an either-or proposition…but it requires having the will to be present for both. Read More

Howard Gordon, Executive Producer, Homeland

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We'll continue to work at reaching every person on the planet. Read More

Katie Stanton, VP of International Market Development, Twitter

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China realizes the value of space exploration…I hope the United States follows suit. Read More

Leroy Chiao, Former Nasa Astronaut, Now Special Adviser For The Space Foundation

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We were calling it an "exoskeleton"…Nowadays we refer to it as a "bionic suit." Read More

Eythor Bender, CEO, Ekso Bionics, Maker Of Walking Devices For Paraplegics

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There's a ton of room for growth in that unplanned space. Read More

Steve Nash, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers

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Real social progress isn't achieved through plans or predictions. Read More

Alex Bogusky, Partner, Fearless Cottage And Made Movement

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Your mind is a container of possibilities. If you furnish it with poems, you have constant access to wisdom. Read More

Daniel Libeskind, Architect

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The people who do love what we do? We resonate with them. We give them a home. Read More

Yael Cohen, CEO, Fuck Cancer

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We need to reframe the approach around… creating and realizing the value of waste as a resource. Read More

Ian Olson, Director Of Sustainability, McDonald's

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Short-form content to me is long-form to another audience. Read More

Robert Kyncl, VP And Head Of Content, YouTube

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Focus your career around the thing you're good at, not the thing you're trying to get better at. Read More

David Tisch, Managing Partner, Box Group; Cofounder, Techstars N.Y.C.

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Extra work hours are a pro trade-off for clarity of thought. Read More

Ben Rattray, CEO, Change.org

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There's a tendency in the tech industry to be part of a scene. I intend to get to know a wider array of people. Read More

danah boyd, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research

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Maintaining our culture and sensibilities means spending time with everyone who joins. Read More

David Karp, CEO, Tumblr

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Anytime I go to a different city, I meet up with customers. It puts me in their shoes. Read More

Aaron Levie, CEO, Box

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How we think is as important as what we think. Read More

John O'Farrell, General Partner, Andreessen Horowitz

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You need a creative leader…with the DNA and characteristics of William Wallace. Read More

Andrew Wilson, Executive VP, EA Sports

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In a world...awash in sequels, you stand out w/ originality and big risks. Read More

Travis Knight, CEO, Laika

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Mastering one digital platform isn’t enough. You need every outlet. Read More

Chris McGurk, CEO, Cinedigm

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Next year, I'm not going to wait until it's too late to appreciate what each person does all day. Read More

Alexa Andrzejewski, Foodspotting Cofounder And CEO

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Lessons have been condensed and edited for clarity.

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5 Comments

  • Erin Giles

    Ask for help in a classy + authentic way, there are so many brilliant business leaders waiting to help you.

  • Casey Gollan

    Create a business that grows itself. With all the social media platforms and interactivity available now in 2012 and beyond, entrepreneurs can really accelerate their business growth

  • DeniseCorc

    The single most important question I need to ask in my business is not "What," but "Why."