Asking “who,” not “how”
X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis on human capital as an abundant resource
The following article is written by Peter Diamandis (see full bio below) and first appeared on his blog. Join Peter and Tony on October 30th at 12pm PT as they discuss the power of Massively Transformative Purposes and why “moonshot” thinking is the only way to be as an entrepreneur.
When most entrepreneurs (including me) face a challenge, our first reaction is to ask: “How do I solve this problem?”
My coach, Dan Sullivan (CEO of Strategic Coach), taught me a powerful management shortcut for success. He said: Don’t ask “how.” Instead, ask “who.”
Start to Ask WHO, not HOW…
How much value are you leaving on the table because you don’t have a WHO or because you are caught in the minutia of implementing a project?
As entrepreneurs, each of us has a constant stream of ideas and new projects that might add massive value – if they ever get implemented.
Now, the idea is that as soon as I come up with an idea, my sole responsibility is to ask, “Who am I going to tag in to implement this project?” It has been an absolute game-changer.
Ultimately, asking WHO, not HOW, has transformed my ability to multiplex across my constantly increasing number of business ventures and projects.
Now if an idea comes to me during a moment of overload, I can still move it forward. I’ll spend 30 minutes creating an Impact Filter (a Strategic Coach client tool) explaining why the project is important, defining measurable criteria for success, and then hand that document to the right “who” in my ecosystem.
Simple enough, right? So why are we programmed to dive right into the HOW without thinking to ask WHO? It’s because of The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma. As Dan Sullivan explained, “Our education system plays a major role in why we ask HOW and not WHO from the get-go. With the exception of a few exceptional schools, the education system is designed to prepare people for a life of ‘HOW.’
Kids in traditional classrooms around the world are graded on how they solve particular problems on their own. When you leave school, you need to collaborate and delegate to thrive. But in school, they don’t call it collaborating and delegating – they call it cheating.” The education system engrains asking HOW and discourages asking WHO.
If you want to create a massive impact, you need to overcome old habits and begin to view human capital as an abundant resource. From there, curate a strong and passionate team to support you and act as your WHOs.
By delegating the HOW to my WHOs, my productivity and my overall passion go through the roof because I can remove myself from the mental weight and obligation of unfinished projects, allowing me to focus on what I truly love to do.
A final note for this section: you can even ask WHO when you build your team – go ahead and find yourself a WHO that finds WHOs!
Over the past two decades, we’ve seen various forms of software emerge as the WHOs that figure out HOW. I can verbally ask my phone (through Siri) ‘what is the GDP of Guatemala’, and Google serves as the WHO that executes the research task. Before the advent of search engines, you’d have had to go to the library and do the research to find the right book, or you would have had to instruct an employee to travel and do that research for you. Platforms and services like Amazon, Google and Baidu are all WHOs that entrepreneurs can tap to carry out the HOW.
In a similar vein, in a world soon to be electrified with gigabit connection speeds, entrepreneurs anywhere in the world can find their WHOs anywhere else in the world. Eventually, our ultimate WHO will be an artificial intelligence software shell (think: Jarvis) that’s always on, always listening, always watching… always there to help and be the WHO for your every HOW. Finding your WHOs will make your HOWs happen faster and cheaper than ever before.
At the end of the day, while it’s really important for you as a leader to be smart, driven, ethical and visionary, the only way for you to scale your impact is to build an incredible team of WHOs behind you.
Right now is the greatest time in human history to find your WHOs. What are you waiting for?
About Peter Diamandis
Peter Diamandis is the Executive Founder of Singularity University and Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation. In 2014 he was named one of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” – by Fortune Magazine. Diamandis is the New York Times bestselling author of Abundance and BOLD. He earned an undergraduate degree in Molecular Genetics and a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT, and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.