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Are you working on the right things?

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I really love these questions from Richard Hamming:

He asked them partly as a bit of good-natured trolling of other scientists. But there’s a deeper aspect to the questions. Hamming believed that doing important work comes from working on important problems, and that we should ask ourselves: are we working on the right things?

I’ve found the questions to be useful for planning, whether for myself or with teams. They are a great prompt for more expansive thinking, helping to lift your gaze from your current situation.

If you’d like to give this a go, start with the first question: what are the most important problems in my field? Capture the thoughts that arise. You can also modify the question slightly to consider the important problems in your business, your team, or even your life.

Don’t forget the second part of the question: why aren’t you working on them? And if you don’t have any great answers to that second question, perhaps consider: maybe I should be?

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