Jimmy Wales: ‘Good management skills are more important than having a clever idea’

22 March 2016 -


Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was speaking at the President’s Dinner where he was presented with CMI’s Gold Medal Award alongside Lifetime Achievement Award winner Sir Ronald Cohen

Matt Scott

Jimmy Wales, the man behind Wikipedia, says he is not a good manager. In actual fact, his ability to identify this supposed weakness in himself is exactly what makes him a great manager and leader, and a worthy winner of CMI’s Gold Medal Award for 2016.

“One of the great ironies of [me receiving this award] is that I am a terrible manager,” he said at CMI’s 2016 President’s Dinner, “but I am someone who very strongly respects the profession of management.

“One of the first things I do in any venture I am involved with is as quickly as possible I find an actual CEO to run the place! Because I really believe that solid management and good management skills are more important than having a clever idea.”

Read Professional Manager’s full interview with Jimmy Wales

Wales also spoke of his new project, The People’s Operator, which is a mobile phone operator built around word of mouth and donating a percentage of every phone bill to a charity of the customer’s choice.

“A huge megatrend in business these days is word of mouth is stronger than ever before,” Wales said. “If you think back 40 years, if you really loved something you told five people. Now, if you really love something you post about it on Facebook where the average person has 318 friends.

“So consumers are really able to promote things that they believe in and care about and like.”

And it is the strength of this consumer recommendation channel that means The People’s Operator has vowed never to spend a penny on advertising – something Wales has previously replicated at Wikipedia.

The cost savings this allows also means that The People’s Operator is able to offer competitive pricing despite giving a proportion of every bill to charity – a truly sustainable and socially responsible business model.

And it is this sustainable and responsible approach to business that CMI’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner Sir Ronald Cohen has built his career around.

Speaking at the President’s Dinner, Cohen said it was now time for managers to start a revolution of socially responsible businesses that could change the way the world works.

“You in this room are the engine of a revolution,” he said. “We are on the threshold of transforming the way in which our society deals with social issues. There has been an evolution of thinking over three or four decades, starting with the environment and now moving to social issues, that the world cannot continue as it is.

“There is an urgent need to help those left behind and to protect the planet. Both of those elements threaten the lives of our children and future generations. My generation was marked by fear of nuclear holocaust, the current generation feels that the world is threatened by social issues and by what human beings are doing to the planet.”

You can read more of Cohen’s thoughts on socially responsible business and the rise of the purpose-driven enterprise here

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