I have the privilege of being a judge on Mark Burnett and Intel Corporation’s new technology reality competition show, America’s Greatest Makers, currently airing Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. EST/PST on TBS Network. As I spent time with these amazing makers -- people who see problems and work relentlessly to make a solution for them -- I saw some very valuable characteristics that every entrepreneur could learn from.
Here are some of the best lessons that America’s greatest makers have to teach you.
1. Failure isn't an endpoint. It's a pivot point.
Thomas Edison, arguably one of the most successful inventors of all time, has been quoted as saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
The best makers in the country live by this mantra. Failure doesn’t keep you from success -- it just changes the path that you need to take. This is a critical mindset for entrepreneurs who encounter roadblocks in all aspect of business, from raising capital to marketing to even technology.
If you want to be successful, embrace failure. Fail quickly, fail cheaply, never fail the same way twice and keep moving forward.
2. Collaboration is the new competition.
If there’s one thing that is associated with makers, it is community. Makers support each other’s endeavors, share best practices and even share tools and space. Having this support system is truly emblematic of the concept of the “rising tide lifting all boats”.
All entrepreneurs can benefit from this community-oriented stance. Whether it’s co-marketing with competitors that serve a similar market, mastermind groups that can share experiences or just having other entrepreneurs that can give you moral support, embracing the makers’ spirit of community and collaboration can be a differentiating factor for your success.
3. A.B.S.: Always be selling.
While being a maker is about creating a solution to a problem, being a great maker is also about selling that solution. Having a great solution isn’t so great if nobody else knows about it.
Our greatest makers included the individuals and teams that could also sell their visions and / or products. This meant having a polished presentation, complete with visuals, confidence and clarity.
All entrepreneurs can learn from this. You can no longer be a successful entrepreneur without being a marketer, too. The market is so crowded, and attention spans are so short, that you have to have the wherewithal and tenacity to consistently be marketing. It’s not a nice to have element of a business -- it’s a need to have.
4. Think big, but keep it simple.
Designating the best makers out of a pool of very talented makers is challenging, but it boils down to a number of criteria. This included pushing the limits of the technology that they were given -- the new Intel Curie module -- and having a big vision. However, this vision has to be balanced with being able to walk first, then run -- meaning that while the vision should be big, the milestones along the way should be clear.
Additionally, a big vision does not mean a complicated process. If you think of some of the most successful technology products or consumer companies in the world, they are all based on simplicity, whether that be simplicity of design, of operations or of the solution in and of itself.
Too many entrepreneurs get caught up in a big, complex vision. The ones who become most successful are those who can keep the big vision, but simplify the execution of it.
5. Don’t just find a solution, find the best solution.
Makers, like most types of entrepreneurs, are problem-solving. However, the most successful makers are the ones that seek not just any solution but the best solution to a problem. While technology can do just about anything these days, sometimes that extra effort isn’t necessary to create an elegant solution to a problem.
This is key for any entrepreneur. To be successful, you have to find the best solution for your customers. So, keep striving to make sure that what you are offering is really needed and is the best way to address your market.
6. Keep learning.
One of our youngest contestants, 15-year-old Diana Voronin, was very clear that she was seeking not just to solve a problem with her innovation, but was genuinely interested in learning and making herself better.
This is such an important lesson for entrepreneurs, who often get caught in the trap of stagnation. Whether it’s embracing new technologies, new processes or even new viewpoints, having a thirst for continual learning can help any entrepreneur be more successful.