The three words that could be key to your competitive advantage

We are always looking for growth – here is a little nugget of loveliness from Mr Elon Musk

I am assuming that most people know who Elon Musk is. His continued drive into a new and exciting future has recently been expressed in plans for a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate traffic in LA, electric trucks, solar panel roof tiles and putting 1 million people on Mars (…all of this on top of his work at Tesla). All inspiring stuff, but it was a small comment made towards the end of a TED interview that really struck me.

Musk was reflecting (after describing all of the plans above) on what it is he actually does. His response to this was quite simple and profound. He seeks to accelerate the inevitable.

For Musk, the need for humans to find a sustainable source of energy is inevitable. We are going to run out of fossil fuels at some point and so sustainable energy will happen out of necessity – the laws of economics will drive us there.

In reaction to this challenge, Elon Musk has sought to accelerate the progress of this inevitability (his goal to double the world’s supply of lithium ion batteries is part of this strategy). He looks at the future from a standpoint of probability and then considers what the actions might be to accelerate the high probability factors, slow a factor down or introduce something completely new into the probability stream.

Using Tesla as an example, Musk states, “the fundamental value of Tesla is the degree to which it accelerates the advent of sustainable energy faster than it would otherwise occur”. In this example, 10 years is a good goal.

Musk, also points out that not everything he does falls into this category (although most do). His foray into humanity becoming a multi-planet species is not necessarily a high probability factor over a short time horizon i.e. the United States once had the capability to put people in the moon in the 1960’s but don’t have the capability to do that now.

So how could we apply the ‘accelerate the inevitable’ thinking for our own ability to derive competitive advantage? Well, considering the above, we can take the following simple steps as part of our planning process:

  1. Consider for our own industry the high probability inevitable factors that would deliver value for our clients
    1. Are there things we want to/could accelerate?
    2. Are there things we might want to slow down?
    3. Is there anything new we could introduce?
  2. Consider how we might bring these around faster than they would normally occur and set an aggressive timeframe for doing so
  3. Take massive action against it

Musk’s final point was also interesting, “I am not trying to be anyone’s saviour…I am just trying to think about the future and not be sad…”. Not a bad consideration for our own companies and lives! Over and out…