Thinkers vs. Doers

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Adam from True Ventures asked me to speak to their Fellows about what its like to work at a startup. The TEC program is amazing–they place high performing college students with portfolio companies for the summer. With folks from the best schools from around the country, I was excited to hear about how their summer has been going.

They were gathered around a large table in the South Park True Ventures office, and as an ice breaker the 15 or so Fellows were asked to mention their favorite snack available in the True offices.

“Twix! Fruit (somethings)! cookies!” It went on and on. and on. Man, the cornucopia of snack selection really humbled me, given in the Graphicly offices I think we have a dust covered, half-eaten Fig Newton in a drawer somewhere.

I began by asking one question: “Who here is an entrepreneur?”

For those that read this blog, or have spoken to me in the past several months, that question has been burning a hole in my brain.

About 2/3 of the hands went up.

“What is an entrepreneur?” I followed up. “After all, if working at a startup is something you want to do, shouldn’t you know?”

I spoke about a post I wrote called “Hackers and Hustlers” and how a great company always has one of each, and that I have evolved that thinking into Thinkers vs. Doers.

“My mother and father were adding a flower bed to the backyard,” I told them. “My dad had studying the weather, the water conditions, which types of flowers would work best, and how to ensure that the flower bed would thrive. My mom just wanted the fucking flowers now.”

My dad is a Thinker. As an entrepreneur he is someone who is all about vision and markets and contemplation. Someone who can build an amazing pitch deck and blogs, tweets, etc on message and prolifically.

Thinkers believe that success lies in the process. That the outcome is secondary and pre-defined by the process.

My mom is a Doer. She just gets things done. The outcome matters. How you get there is secondary. She learns through action. Flowers dont bloom? No big deal, plant a different set.

At the end of the day, they both get to the end game – a nice flower bed – through different paths.

Entrepreneurs are the same way. Some are thinkers and some are doers. And for the massive majority of decent entrepreneurs, that’s enough.

But, true entrepreneurs are both.

They live in a cycle of thinking then doing then thinking then doing. Its not scientific, its contemplative. Its not action driven, its purposeful activity.

When I talk to founders, I often find myself thinking about whether they are a Thinker, A Doer or some combination of both, and while it would seem that currently with the rise of the importance of the designer and developer that Doers are seen as infinitely more “fundable” than their MBA Thinker buddies, there is a distinct need for a greater propensity of combination entrepreneurs.

Thinking vs. Doing. How about both?


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