It’s who you know, not how you know

Conventional wisdom tends to be highly individualistic as opposed to collaborative. We are taught to value cooperation and teamwork, but on deeper level most people are conditioned to believe that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. In Who Not How, Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy show the power of collaboration and delegation to expand your horizons and dramatically improve your productivity.

This concept is driven home from the introduction in a unique way. The ideas in the book, essentially, all come from the mind and vision of Dan Sullivan. An entrepreneur and consultant, Sullivan has developed many of the ideas present in the book through his company Strategic Coach. But he barely wrote a word of this book. Instead, after connecting with Dr. Benjamin Hardy and agreeing to put his ideas about Who not How into a book, Sullivan put this idea into action and entrusted the entire project to Hardy.

As for what the book is actually about, the title really says it all. Our culture has a mindset that individual skill and knowhow is the key to success. Sullivan and Hardy challenge this assumption. They argue that as an individual your time, energy, and talent is severely limited. You only have so many hours a day, and even actual geniuses don’t have all the talents required to run a successful company all on their own. But if you break out of this narrow “How” mindset, you can expand your pool of time and resources practically without limit by bringing other Whos into your ecosystem and collaborating with them.

Or, as Hardy puts it in the introduction, “With the right Whos in place, your vision and purpose will expand dramatically.”

Put another way, the shift in mindset goes from “How can I accomplish this goal?” to “Who can help me achieve this goal?” By brining in other people and building relationships with them, you can tap into a much wider network of insight, talent, and connections. This enables you to achieve much bigger goals than if you had to rely on your skills and resources alone.

In order for this system of delegation to work, it is essential that both sides clearly understand the stakes and responsibilities involved. To achieve this, they present one of Sullivan’s consulting tools, the Impact Filter. This one-page document lays out the scope and vision of the collaboration, the consequences of success and failure, and the delegation of responsibility. It’s designed to foster feelings of ownership and mutual responsibility.

Leadership thus becomes a matter of defining a bold vision, then finding the right people to actualize it. Sullivan and Hardy stress that if you adapt this ideas and empower your Whos with real responsibility, the results will quickly roll in.

This Who not How mindset is essentially a two-way street. When you pull someone else into a project, when they become a Who to you, it is important to remember that you also become a Who to them. This is essential to the collaboration and teamwork focused mindset of Who Not How. It’s not just about maximizing your own personal efficiency. One of the greatest rewards of this kind of mentality is being able to assist and mentor others and help them reach their full potential.

One issue with the book, is that it is heavy on anecdotes and examples of its idea in action, but light on actionable advice. There is the “Impact Filter” but not much else. The focus is more about mindset—setting big goals, unlocking your potential, thinking collaboratively. The book tells you to find the perfect Who for each of your Hows, but does not give a lot of practical advice for finding said perfect Whos. You have to figure a lot of that out on your own.

Overall, Who Not How has basically one idea that it really hammers home. But it is a critical insight, even if it is perhaps not as revolutionary a concept as the authors might present it. The book is short, focused, and makes a strong case for rethinking your approach to collaboration and delegation of responsibility.

Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy is available for purchase here.

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