Reality TV. The mere mention can produce a visceral, less-than-positive reaction: Shallow. Waste of time. Zero intellectual or entertainment value. Garbage. Indicative of all that’s wrong with America. Or is it?
If you look a little deeper there are some positive business principles you can take from reality shows — well most of them anyway. (I have yet to come up with anything redeemable from Jersey Shore or Temptation Island).
1) Save the Drama
When you think reality TV, you usually think drama – conflict, fighting, loud voices, and hurt feelings. If you’ve ever watched The Apprentice, Survivor or The Bachelor, you know that drama rarely advances someone’s cause. It just makes you look stupid and causes the others to vote you off the island first. Also true in business — save the drama. Remain calm, find amicable solutions to issues, speak rationally and stay away from the dramatic.
2) Listen to Feedback
The contestants who listen to the judges on shows like American Idol and The Voice are the ones who move to the next step of the competition. Similarly successful business people are ones who know how to take feedback and improve themselves. So, take the constructive comments you receive from your boss, your coworkers and customers and figure out how to improve your approach to a project, solve a business issue or relate to your coworkers better than you did in the past.
3) Things Get Worse Before They Get Better
Whether it’s the first week of workouts on The Biggest Loser or the first day of cleanup on Hoarding: Buried Alive, the participants go through what seems to be a prolonged period of arguing, complaining and struggle before their situations start to improve. The same is true in business; it’s hard work to start a new business or launch a new product and there inevitably will be setbacks along the way, but ultimately things start humming along well.
4) The Journey is as important as the Destination
I’ve seen it a lot on The Biggest Loser and a few other shows. You don’t have to win the show to truly be a winner. Yes, it’s nice to take home the money, but what is more valuable is what you’ve discovered about yourself: You can run a marathon, you don’t have to play the victim and you have more inner strength than you ever thought possible. So too in a business career — it’s the new skills you learn, the relationships you make and the positive impact you can have on others.
5) Be Flexible
A key element of most reality shows is dealing with the unexpected. On The Amazing Race, for example, teams encounter surprises during every leg of the race — flight delays, bad directions, unfriendly locals. The teams that can roll with the punches are the ones who do well. The same applies to business — those that can adapt to change are the ones who succeed in the long run.
6) Have a Strategy
Many shows operate on the premise of a contest (e.g., Survivor). And if you don’t go into the show with a strategy, or if you’re not willing to adapt your strategy as allies become enemies and enemies become allies, you’re usually eliminated. The same goes for your business: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
7) You’re not alone
Yes, business is a challenge — but you’re not the only one who faces struggles from time to time. Just watch American Pickers or Pawn Stars on the History Channel and you’ll see that other business owners face challenges in sourcing, negotiation, employee management and profitability.
So, which reality show is your favorite? What pertinent lessons have you learned?