Since I'm an engineer that recently entered into entrepreneurial work, I frequently ask myself: Does being an engineer automatically make me skilled at playing the entrepreneurial game?
Here's the answer I think: it should -- if you use your engineering skills properly.
OLD SCHOOL REFERENCES
There are a few interesting old school books out there that substantiate this claim. First, there's Michael E. Gerber's 1986 bestseller, The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It.
As this Forbes article tells us, Gerber challenges the "entrepreneurial myth." The myth refers to the mistaken belief that most people starting their own businesses have solid entrepreneurial skills.
And according to this false belief, many businesses are started by technicians that have little or no business skills. And that's why most businesses supposedly fail.
Second, The Goal, a 1984 management-oriented novel by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, is another book that college students still use when they're studying constraints management. The novel provides readers with case studies so they can focus on and eliminate factors that get in the way of results.
Both books should be part of any entrepreneur's repertoire.
FOLLOWING THE THEORIES PROPOSED BY THESE BOOKS, BEING AN ENGINEER HAS ITS PROS AND CONS IN THE CONTEXT OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The pros: Both books establish the premise that building a business is like building a machine. A scalable, sustainable business essentially comprises operable sub-systems and processes.
The truth is, engineers really enjoy making processes. They absolutely LOVE finding order in chaos. That’s how our brains work. It's what comes easy to us.
Building processes involves hypothesizing, measuring, and testing. And in addition to understanding how their products REALLY function, engineers tend to do all of the above very well in comparison to other entrepreneurs from other backgrounds.
The cons: Since engineers are naturally good at numbers, we immerse ourselves in the processes of experimenting, building, and integrating.
The downside is: sometimes we yearn for too much data to interpret.
The result is ANALYSIS PARALYSIS.
When analysis paralysis occurs, we get lost in the process. It's our Achilles heel. Don't misunderstand me -- there's nothing wrong with data. But as engineers and technicians, sometimes we crave too much of it.
And we try to over-apply technical solutions.
If you let them, these issues hurt your business more than they help. The solution? Keep it simple.
SO TRY THIS WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF EMERGED IN THE MURKY, DATA-INFUSED PROCESS MANIA
1) Grab a Wipebook. On the first page, describe the business problem and set your goal. In other words, state your definition of "done."
2) Next, work with your formulas, your measurements, your data, and your analyses. Erase and revise as necessary. Eliminate the data that clouds the issue. But always keep your goal in sight.
3) Solve the problem.
Wipebook: Do it over until it's done.