For many innovators, making a splash through social media is the subject of long thought and a lot of trial and error. On the other hand, innovators like Elon Musk tend to have the Midas touch when it comes to combining innovation and social media.
For example — on March 30, Elon made a vague announcement via Twitter that Tesla Motors was coming out with a new product, and it wasn’t a car. Within hours, Entrepreneur magazine wrote an article encouraging people to guess what the product was about, and re-tweets and favorites both surpassed 3,000. Tesla shares rose in response to the announcement, which gained the attention of CNBC and other news outlets.
Innovation Tips Via Twitter
It is amazing how much can be learned about an innovator’s style and thought processes from the confines of Twitter, so I’ve put together my personal list of 12 principles of innovation Elon Musk displays in 140 characters or less.
- Quality Drives Innovation – One of Musk’s latest projects, the Tesla Gigafactory, garnered several tweets as well as a Flickr post. Batteries for electric cars must be high quality, and that need is driving Tesla to build “the largest footprint manufacturing facility in the world.” Innovative cars need quality batteries. Quality batteries drive innovative manufacturing: the cycle goes on.
- Create the Curve – Innovators are always trying to get ahead of the curve, to create new products that people need, before the rest of the market fills the need. For great innovation to occur, you need more than a good imagination and entrepreneurial spirit — you need to engage culture in such a way that the curve naturally follows you. As evidenced by Musk’s recent Tweet — and the buzz it generated — there are ways to use your innovative processes to move ahead of your industry, so that you are no longer trying to find the curve –- you are creating the curve.
- Relationships are Key to Innovation – On April 6, Elon Musk welcomed a Formula 1 Racer to Tesla motors. Relationships are essential to building innovative companies and products. In the fast-paced environment of the 21st century, no single innovator can know it all. Bringing unique individuals with varying experience onto the innovation team is essential.
- Just The Right Information – If Elon Musk had announced the actual product name, category, or other essential information in his new product tweet, then the discussion with be if Tesla will be able to fulfill its product goals. Controlling information gives you the ability to control the conversation and attitudes about your innovative products and services, which can affect their success.
- Keep Your Core Values in Focus – One of Elon’s recent humorous tweets was — “Really should be a rule that oatmeal-raisin cookies can’t look too much like choc chip.” The point of this tweet is that food should look like what it is, and innovators are the same way. Your core values and processes, the commitments and passions which make you unique are too important to look like any other innovator.
- Keep Innovating – Don’t be afraid to branch out into unknown territory in the process. Solar City,Space Ships, manufacturing, electronic cars, and more are all developments Elon is currently engaged in. Not only is he continuously innovating, but Tesla Motors is also expanding out of their single product focus (cars) – yet no one is surprised or concerned. Tesla is known for innovating, so the announcement that yet another brand new development was coming brings anticipation and excitement — with almost no worry that he’s getting ahead of himself.
- Read – Musk reads science fiction books. Although the genre of book is not as important to different industries, the important thing is to read. Read about your industry, about other innovators, and about principles to make your life better, but also about things seemingly unrelated to your work. You never know where inspiration will come from.
- Have Fun with Your Innovations – An Easter egg, a bit of innocuous code or text added to a program entirely for entertainment, is hidden somewhere in the code of Tesla’s cars. Innovation is serious but should also be fun!
- Be Involved in Politics – Tesla motors has an innovative direct sales process for their cars, and there are plenty of lobbyists and car dealerships who aren’t happy with that. Elon Musk’s Twitter account is full of comments about the company’s engagement in state politics to ensure that they can stay in business (so far the sales process is banned in 5 states). If your innovations are big enough,– there’s a good chance you’ll run into political and/or legal resistance, — and it’s important to stay involved and engaged.
- Explore a Little – From Artificial Intelligence to Mammoths, Musk makes a habit of imagining how the world can be a better place through wild leaps in technology, — and also thinking through the consequences of technological innovations. Not everything you think about has to or should be a core competency – you should be constantly expanding your horizons.
- Keep Yourself Engaged Through Humor – Often, innovative minds are constantly engaged in planning and analyzing and creating. Especially when leading an innovative team, you need to take time to joke about your thought processes, as shown by Elon Musk’s March tweet: “The rumor that I’m building a spaceship to get back to my home planet Mars is totally untrue.” As innovators, it takes energy to be engaged all the time, and self-depreciating humor can take the edge off the long hours and stressful team engagements.
- Don’t Capitalize on Everything – Another March tweet informed anyone who is listening that all ofSpaceX’s photos are available via a Creative Commons License. This has been further updated to Attribution 2.0 Generic. For innovators, the temptation is often to find a way to make money off of everything of value you bring to the world, but sometimes it is better to focus on the value you bring: it’s better for PR and frees your company and innovative teams to focus on what really matters.
My Experience With Elon
As someone who has spent time with Elon, I consider him one of the most creative, innovative and high energy persons I’ve ever met. This makes him someone I follow and his twitter feed is one way I glen innovation tips from him.
My advice – find someone who you admire and use their social media stream as a way to learn and apply their approach to your efforts.