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.

Pareto’s Principle and that Sucking Sound in your Organization

No matter how many mistakes you make or how sl...
No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying. -Tony Robbins (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

Think about this statement: 80% of the people that need your help don’t know they need your help.

Here is another statement: 80% of the people that need to read this blog post will never search for it.

Another: 80% of the people that actually find this post and read it won’t actually believe it. :-/

And another cookie: 80% of the people that don’t know they your help and will never search for this blog post, aren’t even online, don’t search online, don’t subscribe to Internet feeds, read Internet news or otherwise engage in anything online.

Finally, this 80% of 80% (64%) uses 80% of all resources of your organization and only produce 20% of the results.

Not surprisingly, Tony Robbins points out that 80% of businesses go out of business in the first three to five years. Of the the remaining 20%, another 80% will go out of business in the first five to seven years in business. The primary reason is product to market fit… planning and development. That 64% sucking up all those resources at work has a name. It’s name is Mediocrity and it is killing your company.

I’m going to follow this up with a post about where this phenomenon comes from (mostly not the 64%), how to curb and kill mediocrity, and how you can’t kill mediocrity but only contain and minimize its effect.

I’d love to know what aspects are important to the 20% of 20% (The 0.04%) that will read this post. What are your thoughts?



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Key Skills for Leaders of Transformations

Here is my list of Key Skills for Managers and Leaders that I’ve been cataloging for a couple years now.

Content Skills Core Skills
Direct Skills
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • New-Media Literacy
  • Computational Thinking
  • Visioning
Explicit Skills
  • Three Horizons Thinking
  • Building Community
  • Story Crafting
  • Mentoring
  • Virtual Collaboration
  • Social Intelligence
  • Design Thinking
Process Skills
  • Lean Product Development
  • Change Management Skills
  • Limiting Initiative WIP
Simple Tacit
  • Lean Thinking
  • Differentiate Between Agile Adoption &
    Agile Transformation
  • Divergent Thinking over Convergent Thinking
  • Principle Focus over Practice Focus Over
    Process Focus
  • Awareness
  • Action Inquiry
  • Stewardship
Domain Skills
  • Organic Innovation vs. Disruptive Innovation
Complex Tacit

Starting another blog for Business Management advice

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I decided to start another blog for capturing all the management consultant observations and wisdom that comes to me throughout my life under that sun. My initial hope was rather self-serving: create a place to dump my brain that connects all the places on the web where I draw upon as a person body of knowledge (PBOK). As I work on the content more and more (as yet unpublished), I realize that inadvertently I may put a toe-hold on fulfilling my goal finding the people I want to mentor and those who would mentor me: in short, leaving a living legacy.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” — John C. Maxwell

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