Camille Brayshaw/Fourth Estate

Dream big. Chase your dreams. These mantras are often repeated to young adults, especially as they enter college and/or start their careers. A quick Google search will bring up a plethora of articles and advice on why you should pursue your dreams and never give up. The current generation of young adults in their 20s, made up of Millennials and Gen Z’s, are embodiments of this mindset.

That’s nice up to a point. But we need less dreaming — and more doing.

Too often, I’ve come across people who dream big dreams but have no idea how to bring those dreams into reality. Their ideas may be ingenious, but they jump from one idea to the next without actually implementing them.

In a group, these people are often termed the “Innovators,” ones who are always coming up with new and creative ideas. This is contrasted with the “Doers,” people who get the tasks done, big or small, complicated or boring. These aren’t just theoretical, academic distinctions; Innovators and Doers often have vastly different skill sets and personalities.

Proportionally, we need many Doers to bring one idea to life — thus, it follows that we would likely need more Doers than Innovators. 

It seems though that education, and society in general, over-emphasizes the creation and training of Innovators. Forbes, among other business journals, has published on the importance of hiring for innovation. Here at Mason, our vision is to be innovative and entrepreneurial, and graduates are expected to behave likewise.

Where are the articles advocating that we hire “task completers” or that college students should graduate as talented followers and doers? It may not sound as flashy or sexy, but those employees are just as necessary as the innovators, if not more so.

Nine out of 10 start-up companies fail, and one of the most common reasons is that the entrepreneurs overlook “the boring stuff.” For my undergraduate degree, I went to Pepperdine University, where entrepreneurialism was a core value, and it was a running joke that you had to have started at least one company to graduate. But when I got out into “the real world” of work, it wasn’t fancy new ideas that made me effective at my entry-level HR and data analytics job. It was the ability to get the job done quickly and accurately, no matter how boring or mundane the work might have been.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to pursue big dreams and to encourage others to do the same. One in ten start-ups succeed, and the big dreamers like Zuckerberg and Jobs are now household names.

But for the rest of us, we need to learn not just to have big ideas, but also to do the grunt work required to bring them to fruition. Whether it’s delegating tasks effectively or managing a project schedule, these under-trained and under-appreciated skill sets are likely more valuable in the long run than coming up with yet another idea.