Doers and Talkers

An impromptu conversation happened last night over on Twitter. The topic began as a discussion over a hypothetical show (video, podcast, whatever) that would reflect the community and not just have the same people. The conversation began because of a discussion over perceived sexism in the social media community where men could do anything, but women could only be “consumed” (hey, it’s a legitimate use and context for the word!) if they were “sexy”.

To pop this proverbial bubble, the idea was presented that a community-driven show should be created where “panel members” would include an equal cross-section of the community, regardless of sex or race.At one point, a panel was suggested that I noted were all “talkers” and not “doers”.

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Photo Credit foolfillment. Used under Creative Commons

Naturally, some took offense to this characterization, but my question is why? There is an equal need for both and is non-hierachal. In fact, it may be too simplistic of a thought considering the diversity that exists across sectors, bloggers and industries.

I think it’s important to establish a premise for talkers and doers. What are they, why do they exist and what do they contribute to the ecosystem?

Talkers

Talkers are visionaries, by and large. Not always. Sometimes they are just pundits. They are the idea people, often challenging the status quo and causing people to think based on data, research and innovative thinking. They share their ideas readily and often bring a different level of communication to the fray.

Talkers are often CEOs, PR, Marketing, or members of management teams and they frequent the conference speaking circuit.

Doers

Doers are often mistaken for developers. Though developers generally fall into the category of “doer”, the definition is far wider than just physical “doers”. Doers are usually the ones that have ideas and instead of talking about them, they gather the resources (financial and human) and set about putting plans into actions.

Entrepreneurs are often doers. They are the ones with the ideas that have the guts or experience to run with them. Though they may sometimes be talkers too (small business CEOs for instance), their bread and butter is in the action. Smart doers listen to talkers ideas and filter them for actionable items that make sense for the ecosystem.

These are my definitions. They may be simplistic, but I think they provide a great framework for this conversation.

I think there is a symbiotic relationship between doers and talkers. One cannot exist without the other and gets its lifeblood from the other.

For instance, Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester is largely a talker. Though he comes from Hitachi where he was largely a doer, by his own admission he’s more of a talker now.

I think there’s a negative connotation to talkers. That they are just windbags excelling in the art of punditry. But talkers bring ideas to the table that often shape the course of what is going on in the ecosystem. Talkers need doers who will take their ideas and run with them.

Doers, of whom I would classify Dave Troy of Twittervision have ideas but instead chooses to innovate on ideas and create new things. In this case, David (whom in disclosure, I realized a few weeks ago I interviewed with back in the 2002-2003 timeframe when he was the CEO of Toad) has taken ideas surrounding Twitter and made a visualization for them. He also recognized that there was a need for something like SocialDevCamp East and created it (with help).

Others like Jason Calacanis straddle the line between talkers and doers by challenging the status quo of spammy search engines and proposing a concept of human-powered search and running with it. People who can straddle the gap, place themselves in the most valuable position of seeing the cloud, recognizing it’s potential and doing something about it (pardon the reference).

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

8 thoughts on “Doers and Talkers”

  1. I don’t want to say anything and then be branded a ‘talker’…. it should be noted that this entire convo started because of the newsweek article on Geek Girls, and how I did not think the men in tech would ever be written about in that manner, or need the stunts and capes.

    How it got here….

  2. This is a good discussion to have.

    Yes, I’m a talker now, and as an analyst, this is part of the job description –literally.

    My role as an industry analyst is to examine what doers have done right –and wrong, and then document and share it. As such, having been a former doer helps me to identify what’s working.

    Secondly, analysts are much akin to product managers, we create reports, provide advisory, which are sold as products. So just as your company has products we do too. We are doers too, please don’t discount our deliverables.

    One final caveat however, while I may not be a ‘doer’ in the traditional since, Forrester itself is doing a lot with social media (the space I cover) and we try hard to practice what we preach.

  3. As with most categorizations, I think most people fall a little into both. Those of us that are social media people have “talking” as a key part of “doing”… i.e. the talking and conversation is the doing. 8-)

    That said, I do think the analysis and pondering of which one is more “you” is valuable… in a self-awareness sense and in a industry-conversational sense.

    BTW, I slightly expected this to be a little flaming… Glad to hear it’s not. 8-)

    Charlie

  4. The genre issue is always the same. It’s boring.
    The talkers/doers distinction is interesting, but I don’t it can actually lead to anything. Anyone of us is sometimes a talker and sometimes a doer. Aren’t we?

  5. Agreed, genre issue is the same and boring.
    In some corporations where they have not embraced Social Media, we end up wearing the “doer” cap and rely on the reports and research from the Jeremiah’s of the world to validate our concepts and plans.

  6. I actually think this is a very interesting distinction. I think in the social media space, where there are millions of “users” and now, many “analysts” or “talkers” observing the patterns and describing what’s going on globally, we’re actually seeing a gap between those people and those who can help companies or organizations actually start participating, the “doers”. I would say that even though those of us who are bloggers have a foot in both camps, we should strive more and more to be “doers”, because there is a serious need. Within all our analyzing and beta-testing, we should strive to really teach.

  7. Yes, we are all talkers at times and doers at other times. But really — who cares? What are we discussing? Who is more important? Which position is most valuable to a company? Who’s the biggest geek? Good grief. How old are we — 12?

    I’m not saying that it isn’t important to discuss these issues, and I’m very glad to see this was a civil — even pleasant — conversation. But can we all agree that both talkers and doers are necessary to the furtherance of business and communication through social media?

    You don’t need an MBA to convince a board of directors that social media is important. And you don’t need a technical degree to build a really great presence online. But I think all the talkers and all the doers need to work together to make social media work well for their companies.

  8. Talkers vs Doers

    Ironically, this is a conversation that I’ve been pushing for months. The Do’ers need to get better connected and see how we can help solve each others’ problems or at the bare *minimum* provide some outside perspective from one another. I started a small group that was doing just that… where Do’ers – especially operational types – could come together and say “here’s my problem, what do you think?” Andrew Wright (Batterista) was in on the first one of those, I hope we can get them to stick.

    And if I have to sit through one more “oh, why can’t we be like the Valley” or “where do we get money” discussion, I’m going to scream. Yes, I know I used to be one of them.

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