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Published on September 2nd, 2017 | by Matt Pressman

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Elon Musk’s Unusual Communication Tendencies, + A Recommendation

September 2nd, 2017 by  


Originally published on EVANNEX.

Elon Musk has built game-changing businesses transforming the automotive, aerospace, and energy industries. Part of Musk’s unique skillset is his ability to learn fast and communicate what he’s learned so brilliantly. According to Matthew DeBord at Business Insider, Elon Musk “is certainly one of humanity’s most accomplished autodidacts: he has taught himself automotive engineering, rocket science, and solar design. Because he’s an autodidact, he’s also a didact — he likes to explain what’s he’s learned and knows to others.”

Above: Elon Musk has a way of making complex ideas easy to understand (Image: Automotive)

In today’s slang, this sounds a lot like “splaining,” which DeBord reminds us, “in its contemporary incarnation (‘mansplaining’ to women, most infamously), has a bad rap, and rightly so. But Musksplaining is actually completely endearing. Most quarterly earnings calls are incredibly dull, but Musk often Musksplains all kinds of stuff when answering analysts’ questions, making Tesla’s earnings calls must-listen experiences.”

DeBord notes, “If you go to the website of most automakers, you’ll see what you expect to see: cars, in all their shiny glory. If you go to the Tesla website and investigate the company’s newest car, you’ll see the vehicle in all its shiny glory, but you will also see the graph. … It’s an S-curve, and it describes Tesla’s anticipated production ramp for the Model 3: slow at first, then exponentially increasing until it levels off once full production is achieved.”

Above: Understanding the S-curve related Tesla’s production ramp ahead (Image: Tesla)

Why is this important to communicate to consumers interested in Model 3? It turns out that, “Musk has been talking about the S-curve a lot lately, and especially after he admitted that Tesla would endure ‘production hell’ for at least the first six months of manufacturing. This isn’t really a typical thing for a big-time celebrity CEO to be getting into, but it is an example of a peculiar and, I think, engaging tendency that Elon has” to communicate with precision, provide necessary context, and manage consumer expectations.

And there are plenty of other examples. “A few years ago, on a call, Musk explained vertical integration — the manufacturing process by which most processes are handled in-house. In the heyday of Ford, for example, the River Rouge plant was so vertically integrated that train cars full of iron ore rolled up to one end and finished cars rolled out the other. The auto industry has moved away from vertical integration, but Musk wants to bring it back.” And nowhere is vertical integration more evident than Musk’s astounding Tesla Gigafactory being built today.

Above: A look at the process flow at Tesla’s Gigafactory reveals a high degree of vertical integration in contrast to traditional automakers (Image: Supply Chain 24/7

In a Reddit AMA, Musk was even asked how learning, knowledge, and comprehension could be better achieved. Musk explained, “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying… One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

With consumers today poisoned by a virtual attention-deficit epidemic, Musk’s ability to communicate with deeper context is refreshing. “Few CEOs are willing [and able] to educate their audiences in this way. With Musk, you learn new things all the time or you at least get a better angle on stuff you thought you knew but never really had a complete understanding of.” Musk has a way of boiling complicated concepts down to their fundamental truths (through first principles) and that is a big part of what allows his style of communication to have such an impact. DeBord calls it, “the coolest thing about Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk.”





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About the Author

is all about Tesla. He’s a TSLA investor, pre-ordered the Model 3, and loves driving the family's Model S and Model X company cars. As co-founder of EVANNEX, a family business specializing in aftermarket Tesla accessories, he’s served as a contributor/editor of Electric Vehicle University (EVU) and the Owning Model S and Getting Ready for Model 3 books. He writes daily about Tesla and you can follow his work on the EVANNEX blog.



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