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Four Tips for “Going Tesla” to Create an Open and Innovative Culture

Tesla motors announced that they would share all their patents with … everyone. Why? They want competitors to have access to their technology because they believe in what they do and that the world can benefit from what they know. Sharing their patents will no doubt lead to boundless innovation, collaboration, and worldwide ventures that have the capacity to impact all of us and the environment on a large scale.

This unexpected but not surprising move is just another example of Tesla innovative and collaborative culture. Tesla is the best of both Apple and Android. Known for being the best in the industry and for its sleek, yet functional design, Tesla is like the Apple of electric cars. Now available to the world, like an open source system, Tesla has proved that they can adopt the benefits of sharing knowledge with everyone like the Android system.

While many celebrate this as a smart business move that will expand the market for electric cars, or strategically make Tesla’s supercharger stations a standard, this move has many other implications, especially to those who want to innovate.

Tesla has removed all knowledge silos and created a platform for global collaboration and advancement on electric cars. What lessons on innovation and collaboration can we take away from their recent business move?

Here are four tips for “going Tesla” and creating an open culture to support innovation:

  1. Share information (Don’t hold your information hostage). It is simple and obvious. Still, we often guard and withhold information even between teams in the same department. It takes a lot of effort and purpose to share. However, the more you share, the more others will share with you. This increases efficiency by reducing redundancies in work between teams. Often, particularly with larger companies, teams are not aware of the work that others are doing. What ends up happening is that multiple teams will recognize the need and begin simultaneously work on the same thing. Wouldn’t it be more efficient if one team worked on the task so that others could focus on other projects? Sharing information also encourages collaboration among teams helping to create a culture where colleagues can work together to solve programs and improve processes.
  2. Don’t immediately dismiss new ideas. Without an idea program, ideas are hard to come by and some may be inclined to dismiss those that do come. Don’t fall for that pitfall. Instead, take the time to consider these ideas and see if they can be an easy win. If you can’t pursue the idea, communicate why, which resources you’re lacking, or if it’s a timing issue and perhaps create a system where you can go back to review the idea later. By avoiding immediately dismissing ideas, you are showing those in your community that ideas are valued and considered even if they cannot be immediately implemented. Others will be more willing to share ideas if they know that their ideas matter. If you already have an idea program, invest in learning how to choose the best ideas.
  3. Help others without expecting anything back. When someone comes to you for help, always say yes (if you can). Because even if it doesn’t offer tangible or immediate benefits to you, in the end people will be more willing to help you in the future. In turn, you also set the example for others creating a snowball effect and where more and more people will be willing to share their expertise with others.
  4. Credit others. When looking back on innovation success and progress, consider who helped you get there. What colleagues, clients, suppliers, and other stakeholders were involved? We rarely accomplish things on our own and if we can show appreciation for the help that we’ve been given, it shows that we value the collaboration. This contributes positive vibes into the innovation partnership, making it more likely for collaborative innovation in the future.

Tesla wants to drive innovation in their space. Whether you are trying to do this in an entire market, like Tesla, or in your own organization, we can all learn from Tesla and embrace openness by trying these four tips.


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