16 July 2018

Elon Musk - feedback and entrepreneurialism

Tesla boss Elon Musk. (Image credit: JD Lasica)

As an entrepreneur, the opportunities to get real feedback are few and far between. The bigger your profile, the more you inevitably attract attention online – often negative, with the rise of online trolling – and there become fewer people who have been in your shoes or who can give you the valuable feedback you need.

When you’re starting out, you have so many people to turn to. It seems everyone has a piece of advice, some experience to share or feedback to give. It’s extraordinarily valuable. Whilst you may not take all of it on board, invariably this input helps you to avoid some of the pitfalls of starting and growing a business.

So to hear the furore around a piece of feedback received by one of the world’s most renowned tech entrepreneurs this week was disappointing to say the least.

Tesla boss Elon Musk has certainly caused quite the stir in a now deleted set of tweets. Having developed a submarine to help in the rescue of the trapped Thai boys and their coach, he didn’t take kindly to one of the divers saying that the device “had absolutely no chance of working” in an interview over the week.

Instead of accepting the feedback, Musk lashed out calling the diver something I will not repeat here.

The diver in question, 63 year-old Vernon Unsworth, was one of the first cave divers on the scene when news of the boys becoming trapped in late June first broke. Rescuers said that his knowledge of the cave system played a crucial role in locating and rescuing the boys.

“It’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.” Elon Musk

Open to feedback

One of the most important parts of any successful journey is understanding where someone has skills that you could learn from. No one person can know everything. Everyone has a different point of view, a different perspective. Every single person adds value to your journey, just as you add to theirs.

I was incredibly surprised to see Musk react in such a way. I often talk about how humility is incredibly important as a leader. Humility enables us to respect other people’s skills and understand where we are not the expert. As someone at the top of his game, the opportunities to gain this feedback and learn from others don’t come up so often. This could have been a huge opportunity to learn how to develop something to help in future rescue situations.

As a leader, it’s important we learn patience and humility. It’s hard to turn the other cheek when you are young, but I would expect more from a man of his experience and stature in the business world.

I’ll be interested to see how Musk and Tesla respond this week, particularly as Vernon Unsworth discusses the options of legal proceedings with the press.
What do you think of Musk’s outburst?

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