My recent blog post „the great pretender“ about electric vehicles and what it could mean for us from an environmental point of view got a lot of attention (at least where I’m coming from). That attention made me think, what exactly makes Tesla so successful? I’m sure, that probably many smart people have already made statements about it. So mine won’t hurt, right?
As a car manufacturer these days you face a lot of challenges. The treehuggers are never satisfied, cities are congested and the young generation continues to ignore cars. Twens are more thrilled about Playstations, Social Media or Smartphones. The icing on the cake is a decreasing shell life of a new model, which puts a lot of pressure on the R&D department. Those shorter lifecycles must be compensated, which also means less time to play around.
The worst part in my opinion is leadership. While other employees their age would be retired already, men in their 60s manage those companies as they did decades ago. Many of whom are surrounded by „yes-men“ prepping everything according to the likes of those in charge. If you listen to some stories, one gets the feeling there are only a few customers and their titles usually start with a „C“ and end with an „O“. The core problem is the lack of leadership. There is none, only management. No wonder those companies don’t invent anything. They constantly improve the status quo, but never challenge it. Even on the peak of success, one should never get tired question yourself, your organization and product.
In California Tesla once started with a white piece of paper. At least that’s how I imagine it. Mr. Musk handed out a stack of white paper and the basic requirements electric, four wheels and a steering wheel to his crew. And man, they really went crazy, but they are dead serious.
- While others take years to decide on the format of a plug, Tesla builds the biggest supercharger network on earth
- While others fight with their dealerships over price stability and service, Tesla sells cars over the internet, including rewards for recommendations
- While others argue about existing battery power, Tesla uses Laptop cells to offer 300km or more on a single charge
- While others need a facelift to improve their excisting vehicles, Tesla simply updates the firmware as if the car is an app on your iPhone. That is – by the way – exactly how Tesla will introduce self driving capabilities to some of its customers and learn by collecting the data during beta testing.
As Elon Musk put it, Model S is a computer on wheels. Audi, BMW, Toyota, VW etc cannot cope with this revolutional and radical approach. The heart of their cars is a shiny block of metal and sucks up fossil fuels, but all there is left in the future is digital. The smartest people on earth in the most innovative IT companies of the decade are ramping up new mobility devices and I fear, that the old economy will be eaten by the new economy one more time. And this would leave us here in Germany with a huge problem.
If only those CxOs would let their trouble makers, crazy one and rebels off the hook with a clean slate. They would fill white paper with technological advanced, fantastic ideas and even more crazy failures to finally come up with something truly unique, special or how the world would say „german engineering“. Encourage your staff to do the impossible, to think different and let them change the world for you, before the world changes without you. Your Kodak or Nokia moment is almost here, make us proud again. Lead, don’t manage!