Innovation Lessons from Tesla and Elon Musk

by Stefan Lindegaard

Innovation Lessons from Tesla and Elon MuskLast month, Tesla Motors announced that they are opening up their patents to anyone, who in good faith, wants to use their technology. This enforces my belief that although intellectual property rights are still important in the world of innovation, the value is decreasing.

One reason is the fast pace of change, which forces more and more industries to look at development speed, fast execution and ever-changing business models rather than intellectual protection with regards to their innovation efforts.

As I read several articles on the move by Tesla, I paid special attention to some three lessons from Elon Musk. They are:

1. The best companies execute around – and faster than – patent protection

Patents, he said, shouldn’t be so important. “You want to be innovating so fast [that] you invalidate your prior patents…If a company is truly relying on patents it means they aren’t innovating, or not innovating fast enough…” – Elon Musk in Wall Street Journal.

2. People matter more than patents

“He says that when he proposed the open-source idea, he got some ‘wide-eyed looks’ from some board members and managers. But he downplayed the risk of the move, saying that quick-moving companies usually stay ahead of their own patents. Attracting top talent matters more… Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers…” – Elon Musk in USA Today.

3. Open innovation and open source can be cost effective while limiting competition

Fostering an ecosystem around electric vehicles can only help Tesla: the more suppliers there are, the lower its costs could be, and the more widespread the technology, the smaller the incentive for innovators to work on competing technologies like fuel cells. – Quote in Quartz

This is just another sign that the ideas behind open innovation and collaboration are really taking hold. There is no going back now.

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