An Ode to Tesla
I grew tired of the dishonesty; the bias, the tendentious and skewed articles related to Tesla.
I found it frustrating how people around me so confidently could devaluate and discount Tesla’s efforts; argue that they are building simple, mediocre cars, lacking in quality and technology, and that they will be out of business very soon.
How could they not be able to see beyond the minutiae and the noise? How could they not appreciate the grand scheme, the progress, the innovations?
I decided to write a different story.
This is a post about Tesla from an innovation management- and strategic leadership perspective, written from the heart and hand of a car enthusiast: A post that celebrates the automaker for its ability to redefine the industry; to continuously improve, expand, solve massive production- and logistics challenges and succeed in mass producing technologically superior smart cars.
It is a positive post, and it is definitely subjective.
It is a post written in admiration and awe of the Model 3 Performance as a driving machine; a car that brings out the smile when a hard regen and a touch on the brakes sets it up just right; kind of makes it kneel a little and lean in to a hairpin with a hint of oversteer. A car designed to feed signals directly to your spine, offering that confident, balanced feeling for a tight follow-through of that imaginary, invisible line; then the exact timing to step on it for a controlled burst out of the curve in a late night attack of the winding roads of Western Norway.
It is a post that expresses gratitude to Tesla for producing safe family sedans and SUVs with practically unlimited range due to best-in-class efficiency, ultra-fast charging speeds and a unmatched global Supercharger network.
Teslas get frequent over-the-air updates, just like a smartphone or laptop. If you bought a Tesla one year ago, it now has better performance and more features than when you took delivery. Maybe the sound system is tuned a little. The brakes. The suspension. Thermal management and efficiency. Not to mention the autopilot and smaller things, like the rain sensor for the wipers. The car itself is simply wiser and more intelligent. It learns continuously. It feeds and receives impulses from a fast-growing neural network. It reports when you interrupt autopilot, saves video of attempted vandalism and records complete break-ins and burglaries. It lets you sleep in the car without endangering you with exhaust fumes. It regulates the temperature for your dog if left alone in the car for a moment on a hot day. It has games and even fart noises! Why? Because.
It is about software and advanced chip technology. Any Tesla is a super-smart, digital device on wheels.
It is a smartcar.
That brings us to the strategic perspective.
That famous master plan; the vision, mission, goals and objectives are now on the cusp of disrupting major markets and industries. That is the story. Production hell, logistics hell and challenges related to service are just temporary hurdles and obstacles. They are being solved as we speak.
We now see a world-class example of the power of a precise, ambitious vision statement. Bold, distinct and realistically achievable.
We see the results of strategic planning and strategic leaders willing and able to balance financial risk and exponential growth. Defining the timing and finding the resources for research and development of critical elements such as chemistry, battery technology, electric motors, drive trains.
We see the value of strategic partnerships and vertical integration. The value of ingenuity and operational excellence in developing processors, circuits and software.
We see the power of strong operational leadership and marketing skills: the difference between advertising and publicity; the rewards and perils of a brilliant-minded, adventurous, playful, social-media-savvy CEO.
We see the value of being on a first-name basis with top leaders: Elon, Jerome, Franz, JB. Even if they are the Edisons, Bells, Curies, Fords of today, this makes them more human to the average buyer and lowers the bar for interactions, suggestions and fresh ideas.
Which brings us to the innovation perspective
By definition, a Tesla smartcar is an innovation in itself. It is definitely “a novel creation that provides value.”
Then there are all the inventions and innovations in the Tesla ecosystem: Business model, factory setups, partnerships.
I have no knowledge of the internal processes at Tesla. I don’t know if there are systematic idea pipelines, if there is an innovation ambition matrix, an innovation portfolio or how they moderate or facilitate their intellectual capital.
I just see that whatever they do, it is working very well.
I see beautiful Teslas on every street corner here in Oslo.
I see a pace of innovation unmatched in the industry.
I see the value of doing things differently. I see the rewards of positive thinking and creativity. I see what an innovator could refer to as the promise of tomorrow.
It looks to me that there is a culture of asking “What can be done today, this week, this month, this year to execute on the mission and get closer to the vision?”
I think Tesla will make it. The mission, “to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy,” is already causing major shifts in several industries, and some of the negativity could be caused by disrupted stakeholders and investors pushing back.
A profitable, record-breaking Q2, 2019 could be a turning point for Tesla. Six more days, and we’ll know!