Elon Musk has been making headlines for an audacious rocket launch, so what can business owners take away from his approach to innovation? Here are four lessons you can learn...
Elon Musk is one of the 21st century’s great innovators. The world recently watched on in awe as the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket took off from Florida, heralding a new era of space exploration (and providing us with the incredible footage of a Tesla Roadster being ‘driven’ around Earth’s orbit by a mannequin).
But that was just his latest triumph. This is the billionaire entrepreneur who made his fortune with PayPal and who is now attempting to provide us with electric cars, better batteries, supersonic land travel and a whole host of other world-changing technologies.
While not every business owner aspires to be the next Elon Musk, we can all take a lot from his approach to innovation. Here are four lessons we can learn.
1. You need a vision
To innovate, you need a vision – one that goes beyond simply making money. While your business must be viable, you need to start with a big idea.
If you look at Elon Musk, almost everything he does or has done has been driven by a clear and defined vision.
Look at Tesla, for example. Musk’s vision is for a world with cars running on clean electric fuel. Sure, he aims to make a lot of money in the process. But it is this vision that drives him.
Importantly, it’s also this vision that inspires other people. As much as it sometimes looks like he can do everything on his own, Musk relies on a team of intelligent and committed people to help him.
No one else cares about you making money. But if you can inspire people to join you in your mission, this gives them purpose and helps you to get a strong and involved team behind you.
2. Constantly soak up ideas
Elon Musk is a famous reader. He devours books and has done since he could read. Not all of us can find the time to read as much as we want to, but business owners should follow his lead by constantly aiming to learn new things.
That might come through reading, or it might come through taking courses, learning new skills or simply getting advice from others.
There is always more to learn, more approaches you can take to a problem. So read, discover new ways of thinking and never stop learning.
3. Take risks
Being innovative will always involve taking risks because, by its very definition, innovating involves doing things that other people are not.
You have to take some risks – and Musk has taken some big ones.
Just look at Tesla. Despite constantly creating headlines for all its achievements, the company has been through dark days in the past. Musk almost lost everything in 2008, only to keep the company going.
Now, Elon Musk has tied his future with Tesla. If he hits a number of specific targets, he will become the world’s richest man. But there are huge challenges in his way, not least the challenge faced by scaling up production.
So you mustn’t be afraid of risks. Trying something new always involves a risk of some kind. You don’t have to risk your business, but always be willing to try new things even if you don’t know how it’s going to work out.
4. Build on your successes
When you experience wins, don’t stop. Use this success to your advantage to drive momentum.
Elon Musk didn’t stop when he sold his first company for millions. He didn’t stop when he made billions from PayPal. He kept on going.
Use small successes to fuel your more ambitious goals. Start small, work your way up, and have an end goal in mind. Use your success as a platform to send you soaring higher.
What is your mission?
You probably won’t become the next Elon Musk. You might not even want to. But we can all learn from one of the great innovators of our time.
So, what is your mission? What is your end goal? What problem do you want to solve? Have a vision, a big idea, and work towards it. And don’t be afraid to take a few risks along the way.