Lessons from Elon Musk on Innovation


Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy.[1]

Siltanen, Rob. Forbes. “The Real Story Behind Apple’s ‘Think Different’ Campaign”. 12/14/2011.

I stumbled across this suggested post on Reddit with the headline, “Has Elon Musk gotten anything right with regards to self-driving cars?” There are many lessons we can learn from Elon Musk on Innovation if we pull this question apart.

There’s a book about predictions about large technological milestones. It changed how I view futurist predictions and science reporting, too.

The book is titled, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn.[2]

The translation from German could have been better, but ultimately it is a useful read.

The basic nugget is that there is a cycle to scientific breakthroughs. Generally, scientific breakthroughs driven by business happens faster than that of academic The basic nugget is that there is a cycle to scientific breakthroughs. Generally, scientific breakthroughs driven by business happen faster than that academic science. Business-driven breakthroughs tend to have more unintentional side-effects on society, whereas academic-driven breakthroughs tend to be a bit more circumspect, but take forever-and-a-day to amount to anything because of egos, the validation study process, funding, etc.

II extrapolated from Kuhn’s controversial work using other sources, and have observed that most predictions are wrong. This was reinforced by Nassim Taleb [3] in his book, the amazing work being done by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Ph.D. [4] regarding structural racism, and many others.

So then what to believe about Elon Musk and his predictions?

  1. He’s a CEO and an engineer, not a scientist.
  2. He’s also a futurist and gets a lot of press coverage because he is:
    • A visionary
    • A rebel
    • Appeals to American populist culture by challenging the status quo
  3. He sets up his company to use hypothesis-based innovation product development practices: measure-learn-build-repeat[5]
    • Every one of his companies is generally out-innovating incumbent product-category enterprises at about a 5:1 ratio.
    • He can release new versions of his product faster than most companies can know what product to build
    • His companies build sensors/telemetry that feeds cognitive machines for human-computer deep-learnings and insights where traditional/incumbent companies are still using traditional mass-production, product management practices from the 1960’s/1970’s (aka “Build it and they will come”), which the Cluetrain Manifesto calls out as no longer workable in the Digital Era

So is he wrong about his predictions? Of course, he is.

Are his predictions being given more airtime than they should because he is perpetually wrong? Of course. It’s called, “Celebrity CEO” status, and why the SEC is after him. That’s what Innovators do.

VisVisionaries are always this way. They “Think Different”™.

[1] Chou, Yu-kai. Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (p. 73). Octalysis Media. Kindle Edition.
[2] Kuhn, Thomas S.. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
[3] Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Incerto). Random House Publishing Group.
[4] Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. Everybody Lies . HarperCollins.
[5] Chou, Yu-kai. Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (p. 73). Octalysis Media. Kindle Edition.

Why I predict the 2013 Mac Pro will be DOA

Mac Pro, Mac keyboard, Mac cup, Mac iPod Class...
Mac Pro, Mac keyboard, Mac cup, Mac iPod Classic, Mac iPod Nano, Mac iPod Shuffle, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apple gave us another look at the 2013 Mac Pro this week at the update release announcement for the iPad line. Today another person noted what I’ve been mulling over for some time: the interesting design is missing two major features that will keep it out of the hands of a lot of video, audio and graphics professionals. You know… the target market for that machine?

The three big features are:

  1. Upgradability: If I can’t put the video or audio cards that I already have in it or can’t install newer versions of the same cards the the system has no use to me. Examples are:
  2. Rackmountable: If I can’t put the workstation in a server half-rack, which most studios and live production crews use, then the workstation will need a custom installation in a space where space is a premium and there are already standards for such things.
  3. External storage: SAS Drive array cards to connect to MiniSAS and SAS Desktop Video Drive Arrays for HD and 4K Video editing. Examples are the PROAVIO, Sonnet and Promise desktop and rackmount solutions.

My point. Apple’s Mac Pro looks pretty, but professionals don’t buy machines to look pretty. We all bought Macs because they were the best functional machine I never had to think about. It just worked and anything designed for it just worked. It may be that Apple is banking on the expanded use of the Lightning Bolt port, but most professionals, self included, don’t need more cables and junk lying around. Also, there are limits to the Lightning Bolt port that can only be overcome with Bus Speeds. Live rendering all those pretty graphics you see in sports shows is a perfect example.

This may be the end of my journey with Apple hardware for a while until Apple realizes how badly they are alienating the Pro Media community.

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Essential Travel Tools for iPhone and iPad

A close friend recently asked me if I liked TripIt after he noticed the automated posts of my travel plans. This came on the heals of almost a year of constant business travel, so I figured I would give back my tips for the Road Warriors out there trying to remember what city and time zone they are in… trying to get back home to their loved ones without getting all wrapped around the travel arrangement axel.

Kayak for iPhone and iPad

Kayak for iPad
Kayak for iPad

First stop is my chief means of flights of fancy and those homes away from home. The Kayak iPhone and iPad apps are extensions to the powerful online site that harvests deals from Priceline, Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, and CheapOair for airline tickets. They also have hooks into hotel sites, car rentals and cruises. The only thing they don’t have is the ability to book tickets on Amtrak.

The thing I like about Kayak is that you can set alerts on fare changes and cheap hotel deals. Kayak combined with the next app has saved me hundreds of dollars over the last year in refunds, vouchers and opportunities to save money.

TripIt Pro for iDevices

TripIt Pro for iPad
TripIt Pro for iPad

Next stop on this journey of travel apps is TripIt Pro. Like Kayak, TripIt Pro is first a Web-based app and the mobile apps for iDevices works in tandem with the mothership.

I use TripIt Pro for itinerary management, awards points tracking and price alerts (I’ve found out about price drops on flights I’ve already booked and received vouchers for the difference.) It also gives me flight info and has quickly told me about alternate flights when I had a flight delayed or cancelled. It also integrates with my calendar and email. It picks up email reservations, logs it in my itinerary, and then puts the event on my calendar. And all of my colleagues use it to know who is in what town on what dates: it also broadcasts this info on our corporate IM feed (Yammer.com). It posts general travel plans to LinkedIn and Facebook in the form of “Devin is preparing to leave for… ” and “Devin is returning to DC from …”. As an added bonus, I can designate people like close friends and my lovely wife as members of my Inner Circle. These members get look at the intimate details of any itinerary. Finally, I can always see my itinerary on my iDevice either through the app or through integration with my calendar.

TripIt also has a version for businesses. I and my colleagues have floated the idea of subscribing to this so that it is easy to coordinate pair-coaching opportunities as we float about the World.

FlightTrack Pro

FlightTrack Pro for iPhone
FlightTrack Pro for iPhone

I use FlightTrack Pro for gate information, flight delays, alternate flights, navigation around airports, weather delays, etc. It pulls my flight information directly from TripIt Pro (tight integration). I get notified of delays and gate changes typically before the majority of the crowd (including the gate employees), and can switch flights before the crowd has even figured out what is going on. Another nice thing about combining FlightTrack Pro with TripIt Pro is that I can invite my inner circle from TripIt Pro to view my trips. Then they can know when to meet me at the airport using FlightTrack Pro on thier iDevice. I also love that I can view the map of an airport that I’m not familiar with before I get there and know how to get through the maze of terminals and concourses without looking like a mouse that has lost its cheese.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor for iPhone and iPad
TripAdvisor for iPhone and iPad

Another one of my essential iDevice travel apps is TripAdvisor. The TripAdvisor is just a better interface for my mobile device with their Webapp as the back-end. It allows me to find and read reviews of hotels, restaurants, and venues using either an address or geolocation. The app is also integrated with TripIt Pro so I can go from the address in my itinerary to TripAdvisor to find out other places around that address. When combined with the online Webapp, I can monitor airfares between locations that I frequent. I can also check for alternate hotels if I find the one I booked has suddenly had an outbreak of Bed Bugs.

Honorable Mentions:

Bed Bug Tracker

Bed Bug Tracker for iPhone
Bed Bug Tracker for iPhone

I’ve now tacked this one onto my essential travel apps as I have started visiting cities where there are Bed Bug problems in the hotels. So far this app hasn’t failed me. Eventually I need to write a blog about my one and only bed bug experience. I never want to experience that again. That was before a colleague referred me to this app. Now I check this app every time I go to make a reservation.

Egencia/Expedia TripAssist

Expedia TripAssist for iPhone
Expedia TripAssist for iPhone

I’ve been using Egencia for work related travel for a couple months now. It really isn’t that great, but it is worth a mention because when flights are cancelled, changed or when a hotel messes up my reservation or overbooks, I can simply use the app itself to autodial customer service to fix everything for me.

 

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Apple clearly has Nintendo in its sights

As if it wasn’t obvious each of the last Apple developer’s conferences, Apple has gaming on it’s mind and Nintendo and Sony firmly clearly on it’s radar. Each of the last keynote addresses about the iPhone have featured EA or some game developer. The latest salvo seems like it will go off more like an atom bomb. EA announced Tuesday during a keynote address at the Game Developers Conference that they would release Madden NFL, Wolfenstein, Command and Conquer, and NBA Live for the iPhone. Holy Fragging Railguns, Batman! That’s pretty much the equivalent of releasing the most significant property for use by every major market segment of the gaming industry. That’s huge!