Thursday, February 28, 2013

Overcoming inertia: the key to Tesla changing the world.


I had dinner with my father-in-law a couple nights ago. He’s an old-school businessman, so no surprise our conversation turned to a common theme: business today versus back in the day. Somehow that conversation veered to a grandchild who goes against the grain. I could tell my father-in-law sees the kid’s quirkiness as a flaw, but I think it’s potential for creative new ideas—which, from my perspective, makes him a perfect candidate for business.

To avoid conflict, we started talking cars. Safe territory, right? Wrong. I said I’d love to buy a Tesla. He balked at the idea of electric cars in general.  So I looped back to business, emphasizing how critical innovation is in every industry these days, and Tesla is as innovative as they come.

I told him that Elon Musk is a fascinating leader—a powerful intellect, brave to the bone, full of monumental tenacity. And with the Model S, he’s getting crazy positive reviews. Tesla has thousands of Model S pre-orders and hundreds of free supercharger stations on the way. On top of all that, the company is targeted to have great margins with American-made vehicles.

My argument had zero traction with him. He still thought EVs were idiotic and doomed to failure. I just hope the world proves him wrong.

Inertia

The world establishes norms to function—cultural, legal, technological. Changing these norms can be a challenge, even when there are clear benefits to doing so. Yes, we shifted from Walkmans to iPods, but only after it became clear iTunes had the music we wanted. We had mp3 players already, but technology wasn’t enough to create a shift in norms. Great songs were. Then the change was easy: throw away the bulky old device, buy the silvery new one and download away.  In other words, and to bastardize basic physics, something had to push us to overcome inertia.

A similar shift has to happen in order for Tesla to succeed. Right now there's lots of resistance, from a clear lack of charging stations to a vague sense that all things green require sacrifice. And as Elon Musk has said, even government regulations are aligned against new thinking on a car. My father-in-law would certainly agree with Musk's frustration with rules against everything from headlight color alterations to mirror redesigns--even if he'd wonder why anyone would want to noodle with something that works just fine..

But one by one, Tesla is knocking down that resistance. Who can resist free rapid charging? Who wouldn't want  0-60 in 4.1 seconds? Who wouldn't want an American car that far exceeds the quality and innovation of any car in the world? 

Not me. I'd be happy to have a Model S in my garage.



1 comment:

  1. jennifer christiansenMarch 13, 2013 at 11:38 PM

    I hope the world proves him wrong too.

    Daryl loves talking about these cars and Lit Motors. You should talk with him. Stuff has to change or we'd all be walking around carrying clubs, right?

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