I was reading the transcripts of a seminar by Dr. Richard W. Hamming. In this, Hamming goes on to say the following statements:
Explaining why one guy was successful while the others weren't as much successful.
I have never heard the names of any of the other fellows at that table mentioned in science and scientific circles. They were unable to ask themselves, "What are the important problems in my field?" If you do not work on an important problem, it's unlikely you'll do important work. But the average scientist does routine safe work almost all the time and so he (or she) doesn't produce much. It's that simple. If you want to do great work, you clearly must work on important problems, and you should have an idea. Most great scientists know many important problems. They have something between 10 and 20 important problems for which they are looking for an attack. And when they see a new idea come up, one hears them say "Well that bears on this problem."
Now my question is: If I ask myself the question, What are the important problems in my field?, how should I expect to get an answer to this. Is it by deeply diving into literature and finding loopholes that exist. And even if I do find something worth working upon, how do I know it's an important problem of the field or a trivial subset of some other large problem?
I am sorry but I am unable to get myself a clear picture of what exactly is meant here. Will anyone please help me out with ideas.