Getting Stuff Done

I teach an entrepreneurship course at Stanford, and as we look at successful entrepreneurs in history one of the recurring themes is that some people just simply have an amazing ability to get things done.

In fact, Michael Dearing over at the School of Engineering addressed this precise phenomenon in a presentation he did a couple years ago called “The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done.” (view PDF)

Dearing outlines what he sees as the five common automatic thought processes (Cognitive Distortions) that high-performing entrepreneurs tend to have:

1. Personal Exceptionalism: “I am special.”
High-performers tend to believe that they were born special (think Steve Jobs). This character tends to give them the resilience, stamina, and charisma that all great entrepreneurs seem to have.

2. Dichotomous Thinking: “X is crap. Y is genius.”
We all know people like this in our lives. Some of them are pretty annoying, but the fact is that perceiving things as black or white saves the time the rest of us waste thinking about all those different shades of gray. 
  
3. Correct Overgeneralization: “I see two dots and draw the right line.”
Dearing defines this as the ability to make universal judgments from limited observations and be right a lot of the time. Again, it's a time saver if you genuinely believe in your own intuition.  
 
4. Blank Canvas Thinking: Painting by numbers isn't art. I want to make art.”
These are the same people who in kindergarten weren't afraid to color outside the lines. Way outside the lines. 
 
5. Schumpeterianism:I am a creative destruction machine.”
(Joseph Schumpeter was the economist who coined the term creative destruction). Most of us were taught to follow the rules. But many high-performing entrepreneurs believe that their job is to break the rules and find better ways of doing things. 

While Dearing's framework is a good one for studying other entrepreneurs, it doesn't necessarily provide lessons we can apply ourselves (it's difficult to just decide to give yourself cognitive distortions!). 

So in my next post I'll talk a little about some of the relevant learnings from famous entreprenerus that have practical application for all of us who want to be successful and get shit done in our professional lives.