Elon Musk's new masterplan does not disappoint and it also offers a template for other businesses to follow
There is so much to like in Tesla's new masterplan, which was released yesterday by the company's CEO and founder, Elon Musk.
There's Musk's elegant definition of sustainability as a means of ensuring "we can imagine far into the future and life is still good".
There's his insistence such sustainability is "not some silly, hippy thing - it matters for everyone".
There's the reminder the company's first masterplan, published a decade ago, has been pretty much completed with the emergence of an affordable, high volume electric car and Tesla's branching out into energy storage technology.
There's the vision underpinning the company's proposed SolarCity takeover to create a one-stop-shop for integrated clean power, storage, and transport.
There's the plan for electric Tesla heavy duty trucks and congestion-busting, summonable Tesla 'buses'.
And there's the science fiction-esque self-driving vehicle strategy, with its potential for an Uber-style shared fleet of driverless vehicles providing transport across an entire city and allowing owners to hire out their driverless cars when they are at work or on holiday.
If Tesla is as successful in delivering the second half of its masterplan as it has been with the first, then we really could be on the cusp of delivering low carbon cities free from air pollution and congestion. Moreover, this vision could be delivered in a way that reduces energy and transport bills for Tesla customers, while cutting carbon emissions for all of us.
It goes without saying that we need more companies like Tesla and more entrepreneurs like Musk: businesses and individuals that have clean tech disruption as their mission statement and have the skill and resilience to deliver on that vision.
Tesla's masterplan aims to bring a genuinely sustainable operating model to the worlds of personal transport, domestic energy, and now public transport and logistics. But there is an urgent need for this level of technological and business model disruption in virtually every other sector of the economy. Agriculture, aviation, chemicals, manufacturing, banking, retail, construction, they could all do with the Tesla treatment.
Musk is good enough, however, to explain why there are so few Teslas out there. As he puts it: "The list of successful car company startups is short. As of 2016, the number of American car companies that haven't gone bankrupt is a grand total of two: Ford and Tesla. Starting a car company is idiotic and an electric car company is idiocy squared."
The barriers to entry in too many industries remain far too high and they are stifling the innovation that is urgently required to build a truly low carbon and sustainable economy.
However, Tesla's two masterplans still contain an important lesson for all businesses, regardless of whether or not you have just pocketed a couple of billion from a successful dotcom exit.
It would be fascinating to know how many companies, both established incumbents and start-ups, have something akin to Musk's masterplan. Obviously, many firms prefer to keep their long term strategies private for obvious competitiveness reasons, but I'd hazard that in many cases such secrecy simply conceals the fact there is no multi-decadal vision to hide.
The threat posed by climate change - neatly summarised by Musk's observation that "we must get off fossil fuels anyway and... virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane" - means every business should by now have some idea how it is going to survive and prosper as we work to collectively decarbonise the economy.
Developing a plan, publicly or privately, which sketches out how your business can operate within a low carbon economy and exploit the opportunities it offers is simply common sense. Events may mean that you have to change it over time and the strategy may ultimately fail, but it helps everyone in an organisation to know that there is a masterplan, that the business is defined by a coherent and inspiring vision and not short term fire-fighting.
Musk's second masterplan is so ambitious that it might yet falter, but regardless what happens next we need more companies like Tesla - not just in the sense that it has become the watchword for ambitious clean tech innovation, but also because there is huge value in developing a climate compatible corporate strategy and then striving to stick to it.
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