"How"-People and "What"-People

During a talk at IIIT Delhi by Sachin Gaur, entrepreneur with an interest in social impact, he made a nice point when asked about the skills needed as an entrepreneur:

There are "how"-people and there are "what"-people. When people tell you about their project do you ever start wondering about how they are doing it even before they are done explaining what it is about?

The problem with that is that there are hundreds of ways how to solve a problem. But once you have figured out one "How" you are usually set on that only, quickly discounting other approaches and people who have a different perspective on the matter.

Focusing on the "What" is probably easier said than done, you have to stop yourself to immediately engineer solutions. But to make an impact in life the most important and challenging part usually is to get the problem right. And following the "What" instead of the "How" then makes you open-minded towards any kind of "Hows", where the most adequate solution may well be frugal and low-tech.

"If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions."
     -- Albert Einstein

On a similar note: Do you know the exact meanings of Efficiency vs Effectiveness?


And a few other thoughts and references to take away from his talk. A lot of them I had heard somewhere before but that should probably just make them more credible.

  • "Zero to One", a book by Peter Thiel about building innovative startups
  • "How to Start a Startup", a much praised online course about entrepreneurship
  • If you catch yourself telling others "This should be done differently" for more than three times, either stop saying that or start working to actually do it differently.
  • While on the other hand your startup idea obviously needs to be appealing to you not just for the next ten days but for the next 10 years.
  • A personal network is invaluable. Meet different people, be nice (i.e. helpful) to them without expecting anything in return and it will come back to you surely.
  • And maybe try to also have a few friends outside of your technical college? After all diversity matters when you want to be innovative.


I don't want this to become yet another blog sharing advice and inspiration for (aspiring) entrepreneurs. (If you are interested in this, check out the daily two minutes food for thought from The Heretic, for example.) However I do love the concept of social entrepreneurship, approaching the world's problems in a way that is self-sustaining instead of merely handing out charity. So I will also collect whatever good I find around this topic here.