Engineer vs Entrepreneur Mindset

I write code since 2013 and started my entrepreneurship journey in 2017. That gave me plenty of time to observe a recurring pattern:

Engineers love to get it right.

Entrepreneurs love to get it done.

It materializes in a lot of ways, here are the most striking examples:

  • Engineers have the path in their head. Entrepreneurs have the destination.
  • It takes an engineer 6 months to write a blog post. An entrepreneur 2 hours.
  • An entrepreneur will always underestimate the time to ship a project. An engineer will always overestimate.
  • An entrepreneur learns things Just In Time. An engineer learns things Ahead Of Time.
  • An engineer relies on Scientific studies. An entrepreneur relies on instinct.
  • Entrepreneurs practice selective ignorance. Engineers love to learn a lot of new things.
  • Engineers love to do things by themselves. Entrepreneurs love to delegate.

Obviously, these 2 populations overlap in all the startup hubs of the World, and no way is better than the other. Still, I think it's interesting to take a few steps back to see the tradeoffs made by each group and see if we can take the best from both worlds.

The engineer mindset

Most engineers I know are Introverts (INTJ, INTP, ISTP, ISTJ, INFP or ISFJ). Thus, it's all natural that a lot of engineers are adepts of Deep Work: uninterrupted work sessions to achieve maximal focus.

Introversion also leads to perfectionism: as we don't like to talk about our skills, they have to be apparent in our work. Everything has to be perfect: from the fonts to the algorithms, passing by the colors. If it's not a best practice backed by serious studies, it has little value.

When it comes to learning, engineers love to learn a lot. I can buy 10 times more books than I have the available bandwidth to read and still be happy to have all this knowledge on my hard drive, always available, "just in case".

Regarding productivity, engineers love to systemize everything. Everything is a process, an algorithm. And algorithms can be executed by machines. This is how automation work. You don't automate a chaotic suite of steps. You automate a carefully planned and tested system.

The entrepreneur mindset

There is no typical profile for entrepreneurs. But there is one thing that is sure: if we don't get things done, there is no money. No money == no food and no shelter. Thus, a lot of traits are shared by entrepreneurs, even if the personalities differ.

The most blatant thing that I noticed among the most efficient entrepreneurs is: they decline almost everything. They say no to a lot of things in order to dedicate their time and energy to the things that will bring them the most results. Our era is marked by the possibility to do almost anything we want: infinite catalogs of streaming content, with a car we can now cross the country in a few hours / days... It takes a lot of courage and dedication to say no.

Another thing is selective ignorance. Our brains are bombarded with information every second we are awake. Social media, TV & Video streaming services, notifications, the News industry... Efficient entrepreneurs stay away from these attention robbers and learn things only when they need it. Do I need to learn the whole computer science curriculum to code a simple web application? No! So they will only learn JavaScript and Heroku.

What can engineers learn from entrepreneurs?

How not to overthink and practice selective ignorance. How to relax. Thinking too much leads to analysis paralysis.

The best solution is often the simplest once you factor in maintenance costs.

Also, always have the finality in mind, not the processes. A project will never be a success if you use this shiny new technology but never ship it due to the introduced complexity.

For me, the best way to achieve this is by embracing technological minimalism. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you won't spend weeks looking for the best screwdriver or wrench.

Finally, learn to delegate. You don't need this homebuilt static site generator. Learn how to use Hugo and get back at writing the actual content.

What can entrepreneurs learn from engineers?

By systemizing everything and introducing rigor, entrepreneurs can multiply their efficiency. Once a system is defined, it can be either automated or delegated to other people.

Lifestyle influencers love to talk about productivity, but productivity doesn't matter, efficiency does! If you run 10 KM in 40 minutes but go in the wrong direction, you will never reach your destination.

Also, by taking some time off to learn about new things that may not immediately relate to your current business area, you will drastically increase your imagination and you may find new ideas of processes or businesses. After all, "Everything Old Is New Again" so it's almost sure that someone in another industry has found applicable solutions to your current problems.

Finally, learn how to do things by yourself. I know too many entrepreneurs that spend more time finding someone to delegate work than learning how to do things by themselves. It compounds when you realize that any project have maintenance costs that are at least equivalent to the initial costs.

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Tags: entrepreneurship, programming, tutorial, productivity

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