Elon Musk (Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCity) was named number one on Fortune’s 2013 Top People In Business. His entrepreneurial spirit, bold vision, and persistence over many years have earned him this honor (Adam Lashinsky, “1: Elon Musk” Fortune, December 9, 2013, p. 91):
“Musk’s creations have already made him tremendously wealthy . . . but it is his audacity and tenacity . . . that make him Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year.”
Chris Anderson (curator of TED) reflects on the seminal contributions of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. He summarizes how we should cultivate the undiscovered opportunities within our futures in the same way Musk and Jobs did (“The Shared Genius of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs” Fortune, December 9, 2013, pp. 98–108):
“Dream big! Don’t focus on making money! Work for an idea that’s bigger than you are! Broaden your mind! Embrace thinking from outside disciplines. Expose yourself to the world’s most inspiring designs and designers! Make things as simple as they can be (and no simpler)! Immerse yourself in science and leading-edge technologies! Don’t be limited by what’s gone before! Play with radical outside-the-box future possibilities and keep playing until you find something really big that you believe in!” (p. 108)
Regardless of the size of your business or your place in it, that is counsel from which we can all benefit. Not all of us can be an Elon Musk or a Steve Jobs, but we can certainly gain insights from them that apply to how we do business. Some of the key takeaways that work for me are:
Never Assume You Have All The Answers. Just about the time I think I know everything, along comes someone or something that radically proves me wrong. We constantly need to be open to answers from other people.
Maintain Your Vision. As a business leader, you are the captain who establishes the course of your ship. That means although you will have to adjust to the winds and the waves, you still see your destination.
Do The Hard Work. Running a business is not all fun and games. We want to have as much of that as we can, but we must never neglect the difficult things and the routine things that must be handled. Failing to do the hard work will eventually sink your ship.
Relentlessly Fight Tunnel Vision. It is easy to slip into tunnel vision. That is why we must fight it. Looking at your business from diverse perspectives, drawing from diverse disciplines, and engaging in some mind-freshening “sabbaticals” all feed into our creative processes.