Tag Archives: elon musk

Last Bus to Lican Ray: Leveraging Opportunities that Come with Change


Even the best laid plans have a way of becoming sidetracked by reality. The best analysis and risk mitigation measures can’t predict or control the future no matter how good the team, the project framework or the tools utilized. There’s an uncertainty about life that makes it gorgeously exciting.

When I took the last bus to the town of Lican Ray in Chile during a hiatus from studying at the University of British Columbia (Canada), I chose to get sidetracked, to break away from the norm, and, in the words of the Robert Frost to take “the path less travelled”. But can we apply that same thirst for adventure, quest for knowledge, interest in the unknown to our organizations today? Can we “plan” for the unexpected – not only in terms of risk management but also in terms of embracing the benefits of clashes of ideologies, of frames of reference and of ideas?

By laying the groundwork for innovation and growth to occur as a result – and not just in spite – of changes to the status quo, organizations can be better equipped to be part of the future. One way of doing this is by listening – to customers, competitors, analysts, stakeholders – effectively. Understanding, in the words of Simon Sinek, the “why” behind the product or service and what need, desire or aspiration it fills or seeks to fill.

Another way is by stripping away ego in order to become, once again, like hungry entrepreneurs – vying for the opportunity to show a solution to a problem that no one knew they had. Some organizations promote “intrapreneurship” or recruit talent that proves to be “entrepreneurial”. Others purchase entrepreneurial companies or startups – as much for strategic positioning in their industry as for the technology and talent they acquire through the purchase. Still others create innovation centers or tap into startup hubs to try to replicate the entrepreneurial energy and drive to succeed even before “success” is palpable.

A third way of laying the groundwork to leverage change is by being the change ourselves; looking at what has always been done and doing (strategically) something new. A recent example of this is Elon Musk’s June 11 blog post announcing that all of Tesla’s electric car patents have been removed “in the spirit of the open source movement” and “for the advancement of electric vehicle technology”.

I think there’s a balance between planning for the future and embracing the unplanned opportunities that present themselves; opportunities to learn, collaborate, and change. And it’s a focus on opportunity – coupled with talent and belief in a shared vision – that makes organizations able to survive, and to thrive on, changes to the status quo. Planning will always have its place; but in a world full of complexity and wonder, so will change agency (being agents of change).

Richard Branson said that “opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming” but I am glad that I caught that last bus to Lican Ray because taking the road less travelled sometimes makes “all the difference.”

NOTE: This piece was originally published in June 2014 on LinkedIn “Pulse”.

What do you think? Is it possible to build an organizational culture that thrives on change? How do you leverage the opportunities that come from change in your organization?

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Savvy Saturday May 3, 2014

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” Elon Musk

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What do entrepreneurs talk about?

Image of brain at work from www.fastcodesign.com

Image of brain at work from http://www.fastcodesign.com

It’s a question that I sometimes get asked. The interrogator – usually trying to make conversation – has no idea that he or she is going to get a rather less than earth shattering answer which I will share with you in a minute…

Entrepreneurs in this day and age are seen, for the most part, as “the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…” (Steve Jobs). There is this kind of cult of entrepreneurship that even makes large industry leaders take notice and state they want to be more “entrepreneurial”. Perhaps it’s because there’s this idea (which I support) that entrepreneurs are agents of change and are people that challenge the status quo. In fact, in many of my articles for Forbes I talk about this dimension of business – the need for business today to challenge old notions of “business for making money” and restore the idea that business should be relevant to all stakeholders. Building brands that have meaning and that answer the question WHY coherently and authentically is just the first step to being change makers.

So what is it that entrepreneurs talk about? In my 21 years of experience – started my first business at 15 – entrepreneurs often talk about implementation. That’s right, creating order (or at least the semblance of order encapsulated in a product or service) out of chaos. They integrate different models to come out with something “different”; looking at partnerships, investment and even a $3 USB cord to fix the motor of a car prototype (I’m quoting Elon Musk here).

Entrepreneurs talk about implementation and about money; not as the reason for starting our business or growing it but as a means to create our prototype, develop our “proof of concept” and scale our business.

I have had the honor and the challenge of working directly with more than 10 start-ups and I have witnessed first-hand that entrepreneurs are out to change the world but in small and incremental ways; we spend our time finding out how to implement our idea for the best impact.


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The Best Idea Wins

raised hand
Photo courtesy http://www.sincerelyjules.com

Today’s post is about an article of mine published in Forbes in Spanish a couple months’ ago. You can find the article here. I have pasted it below for reference.

For those English speakers following my blog, here is a summary of what the article is about and how I came to write it.

I was watching a presentation by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, PayPal and Spacex. He was talking to a group at Stanford University on entrepreneurship and the business of making ideas work. During his one hour presentation he talked about how his management style is founded on “the best idea wins”. I love that expression because it shows how the idea – rather than the trappings, title or position of a person – is what is important in building relevant and innovative businesses.

The resulting article (below) talks about how we need to focus on the value of the idea; how assets are finite but the value of assets is infinite. I also quote Bernadette Jiwa, author of The Fortune Cookie Principle and blogger of Storyoftelling.com, when she says “what we are interested in the fortune – not the fortune cookie itself.” As human beings, we are seeking the intangible that is suggested by a brand and not necessarily the tangible elements that get “pushed” by traditional advertising.

That’s why ideas are so important. Although they are intangible and potentially question the status quo, they can be the difference between a successful and a mediocre or failed venture.


“La mejor idea gana”
Por Esther Clark
Forbes Mexico

Hace algunos años Elon Musk, el fundador de PayPal, de SpaceX y de Tesla Motors, habló de su trayectoria empresarial por casi una hora en la Universidad de Stanford, como parte de una serie de conferencias sobre ideas emprendedoras. Dijo que cuando fundó la empresa que se transformó en PayPal tenía –y sigue teniendo– la filosofía de que “la mejor idea gana”. Es decir, la calidad y la novedad de la idea, en vez de los títulos del proponente o la jerarquía de las personas presentes, forman la base para decidir si esta idea vale la pena.

En negocios –sean nuevos emprendimientos o sean empresas tradicionales– es importante destacar el valor de la idea. Cuando decimos “la mejor idea gana”, estamos favoreciendo la idea por encima de los “adornos” de la idea. Claro que hay que estar bien preparados para exponer la idea y proponer cómo se la puede poner en práctica, pero también hay que recordar que las ideas tienen una conexión emocional más allá de ser simplemente una solución o una propuesta de valor.

Bernadette Jiwa, autora de The Fortune Cookie Principle y blogger de Storyoftelling.com, explica que el valor de los activos es finito, pero el valor de lo que representan los activos para uno es exponencial. Aunque el valor puede estar sugerido por una empresa o marca a través de la publicidad o una buena campaña de marketing, el valor real (que es lo que debe interesar a los empresarios), lo crea cada consumidor. Como dice Jiwa, lo que nos interesa es la fortuna y no la galleta china.

Las ideas nos llevan a tener mejores productos o servicios en nuestras organizaciones; sin embargo, las ideas –tal vez porque son intangibles y vienen de fuentes inesperadas– no son cómodas y suelen encontrarse, al menos al principio, con una reacción negativa porque implica un cambio del status quo.

Hay un sinnúmero de artículos, libros y presentaciones de cómo hacer un pitch o cómo presentar –de mejor manera– una idea con la intención de “venderla”. Vender el producto o servicio es fundamental, pero explorar el “por qué” de la compra –desde el punto de vista del cliente– también tiene su valor y puede representar aún más valor para la empresa que la venta en sí misma. Es decir, la razón por la que el cliente compra y la conexión emocional que tenga con la marca o la historia de la marca, dan pistas del comportamiento del cliente para futuras ventas y para desarrollar una comunidad alrededor de su marca.

Elon Musk es conocido como uno de los emprendedores destacados de nuestra época –uno que aboga por “la mejor idea”. Hay valor en los activos intangibles porque representan, como la fortuna de la galleta china, un vistazo de cómo pueden ser nuestras vidas; las soluciones a problemas se concretan y las barreras se superan porque alguien crea en lo intangible, la idea y el cambio del status quo.

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