Likely you know who ELON MUSK is, but if not, read my end notes for a brief bio. In short, I regard him as among the few genius innovators of our age who is having a gigantic impact on mankind and will have a big impact on our futures both on earth and…on other planets.

During an interview with China TV, he shared some very valuable information that may serve you well as LESSONS about innovating from one of the world’s greatest innovators.

  1. PRODUCTS ARE “PETS”. He described customers’ positive and supportive reactions to his products as a human-pet interaction and experience. Why did he choose to describe his products as a “pet”?  A simple word, but rich with meaning. If you can grasp and appreciate the role a pet plays when interacting with a human, or vice versa, then you understand how powerful this analogy can be. A pet brings to a human a rich world of positive, satisfying, rewarding experiences.
  2. CRITICAL THINKING. When asked if he enjoyed the products he produces, Mr. Musk carefully articulated that he spends his time thinking critically and almost constantly analysing his products looking for the flaws. In my opinion, he is telling us to find the problems and flaws well in advance of the customer losing the satisfaction of the experience.
  3. LEARN. Mr Musk stated that if a person reads a lot of books and talks to people, he or she can learn almost anything.
  4. INSPIRATION IS A START, BUT PERSPIRATION MATTERS MOST.   For those wanting to start their own business venture he elaborated on the importance that both idea and effort play. He quoted Thomas Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Musk elaborates. You start with an idea but expect that the idea is mostly wrong. You have to adapt that idea and keep refining it. Criticism from others is important and you ought to listen to it, but be prepared to discard the “wrong” criticism and to listen to the correct criticism. Commit yourself to recursive self-improvement. Constantly refine the idea to make it better. WORK SUPER HARD. Working extremely hard is very important. Keep reiterating in a loop.
  5. USEFUL TO OTHERS. Ask yourself, “Am I doing something useful for other people?”  Mr. Musk suggested that a company should only exist if its product is useful to other people.

One of the areas that could greatly benefit from innovation is our educational system and educational process. Mr. Musk is busy addressing that, too. I was particularly delighted to learn of what he is doing regarding educating young kids. He doesn’t assign them to grades 1, 2 or 3, etc. There are no grade or classes to distinguish one from the other or to mark their knowledge levels. He has no kids lining up, assembly-line like, each among many forced to learn the same thing at the same speed. His concept of educating students recognises that some students have a like and aptitude for languages, others for arithmetic and math, others for music, etc. It also allows for different abilities and skills at different times in the students life which seems to make sense. Students mature in their learning at different rates and their learning is affected by their attitudes and aptitudes which changes as the student matures. His school works at adapting and catering the education to match the students aptitudes and abilities throughout the students’ entire educational experience.

TEACHING BY PROBLEM SOLVING.  The philosophy behind this, according to Mr. Musk, is that students are taught by solving problems not by learning a variety of tools. He cites an example of dismantling an automobile engine. In doing so, one inevitably learn the purpose of the tools and how to use them, but the real challenge is to dismantle the car engine, not just knowing about the tool(s).


  2. Elon Musk: a Canadian-American business magnate. Founder and co-founder of numerous companies including SPACE-X and TESLA MOTORS.
  3. The above lessons are summarised from: Yang Lan,  “One on One”, Chinese TV.  Published on 18 May 2015.  You can view the entire video on YOUTUBE at:–oQo .