This is a guest post by Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP
Whether you plan to launch a business or work within an existing organization, approaching the world from an entrepreneur’s perspective can be incredibly valuable for engineers. At their core, both engineers and entrepreneurs are problem-solvers. By approaching the world from the mindset of an entrepreneur, engineers of all disciplines can become stronger in their fields.
Here Are Four Skills That Engineers Would Do Well to Adopt:
1. Entrepreneurs See Opportunity
Entrepreneurs see the world in terms of opportunities. They are able to identify problems and pain points that, if solved, would create incredible value for people. Where many people see problems and are content simply to complain about them, entrepreneurs are able to see a world where that problem is actually solved and take strides to make that world a reality.
Engineers are especially well-suited to this mindset as well. Given their training and technical acumen, engineers can see opportunities where others don’t. By identifying those opportunities and exploring potential solutions, engineers have the potential to bring incredible value to the world around them.
2. Entrepreneurs Manage Risk
All endeavors, especially those that are new or innovative, carry some inherent level of risk. Entrepreneurs don’t ignore that risk or pretend it’s not there. Instead, they acknowledge it and plan for how they’re going to deal with it. They also know that, at times, risks will come to fruition and become issues, but that the vast majority of issues are not fatal. They know they can weather storms and keep moving forward.
Similarly, engineers must also face risk in their design work. Plans may not come together as imagined. Vendors go out of business. Customers change their minds. Products don’t live up to expectations. These are all risks that engineers need to learn to manage. Unfortunately, there’s no eliminating risk altogether. There will always be some element of uncertainty in our work. That being the case, it behooves engineers to learn to get comfortable with risk and manage it effectively.
3. Entrepreneurs Experiment
Given the inherently risky nature of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs know that their first attempts at a new product, service, or venture will fall short in one way or another. What’s important here is that they understand that growing a new business isn’t so much a one-time project as it is an ongoing process. They are willing to pivot through a number of different iterations on their way to a successful solution.
Engineers can learn from this mindset. Too often, we marry ourselves to our designs or ideas, whether they’re the best solution or not. They become sacred in our minds. The problem with this, of course, is that no design is perfect. We must be willing to adapt, change, and start over again if need be. Engineers who focus on solving the problem rather than the solution will find much more success than their design-focused counterparts.
4. Entrepreneurs Are Creative
With new ventures and novel ideas, entrepreneurs must bring a creative flair to their work. Whether that means building something that has never been done before or providing an existing product or service in a new exciting way, creativity is crucial. “Me too” products rarely have the impact that imaginative creations do.
The same can be said in the world of engineering. Engineers can get overly comfortable with legacy designs and the “way things have always been done.” While it’s important not to reinvent the wheel when the wheel really will do the job that needs to be done, often, it’s important to start a design from a blank sheet of paper and challenge yourself to come up with something even better than what’s been done before.
Engineers of all stripes stand to benefit a great deal from learning from entrepreneurs. Whether you plan on opening your own business one day or working within an existing organization, the mindset and skills that entrepreneurs have can be incredibly valuable.
About Patrick Sweet
Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP, is a recognized expert in engineering management, productivity, and leadership. He is the president of The Engineering & Leadership Project, which specializes in leadership and management development, training, and consulting for engineers and engineering firms. He also hosts the popular Engineering & Leadership Podcast, a show dedicated to helping engineering leaders thrive.
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We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about skills you have learned from entrepreneurs.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success