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You Need These Skills to Succeed, Says Musk, Branson and Others Develop an area of expertise, but understand what you lack, too.

By Nina Zipkin

Bloomberg | Getty Images
Elon Musk

What skills will you need to succeed in an uncertain future?

Alibaba founder Jack Ma was in Detroit this week for the Gateway '17 conference, and during an interview with CNBC, the ecommerce magnate said that those with an understanding of how to analyze and apply data would be the most professionally adept going forward.

"The world is going to be data," Ma explained. "It's just the beginning of the data period. We think data is going to be so important to human life in the future. … We don't really know how data can make money today, but we know we have to protect the security of the data. One day the data will empower the human beings. We have to believe our kids will be much smarter than us using the data."

Related: How Jack Ma Overcame His 7 Biggest Failures

Ma isn't the only leader with strong opinions about what and how people need to learn in order to thrive at work. Read on for advice from five other founders about the skillsets everyone should develop from science to working within a budget.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Richard Branson

"Communication makes the world go round. It facilitates human connections, and allows us to learn, grow and progress. It's not just about speaking or reading, but understanding what is being said -- and in some cases what is not being said. I believe that communication is the most important skill any entrepreneur can possess."

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Elon Musk

"Most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to."

Chesnot | Getty Images

Bill Gates

"I do think of basic knowledge of the sciences, math skills, economics -- a lot of careers in the future will be very demanding on those things. Most necessarily that you'll be writing code, but you need to understand what can engineers do and what can they not do."

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg

"No one does it alone. When you look at most big things that get done in the world, they're not done by one person, so you're going to need to build a team. … You're going to need people that have complementary skills. No matter how talented you are, there are just going to be things that you don't bring to the table."

Brent Lewis | Getty Images

Jeff Bezos

"I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out. When we were [first] trying to acquire customers, we didn't have money to spend on ad budgets. So we created the associates program, [which lets] any web site link to us, and we give them a revenue share. We invented one-click shopping so we could make check-out faster. Those things didn't require big budgets. They required thoughtfulness and focus on the customer."

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Reporter. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

Nina Zipkin is a staff reporter at She frequently covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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