Elon Musk's How To Run A Business

22 Aug 2021

In a recent interview with EverydayAstronaut, Elon Musk revealed his 5-step plan for getting things done. It resonated with me, and I imagine it resonates with many of us in tech. The five points are…

1. Make your requirements less ‘dumb’

The requirement list for a particular project should be thoroughly scrutinized. One of the gems in the talk was the following quote:

“Your requirements are definitely dumb. It doesn’t matter who gave them to you. It’s particularly dangerous if a smart person gave you the requirements because you might not question them enough… Everyone’s wrong, no matter who you are, everyone’s wrong some of the time.”

A great way to do this is review the project requirements and ask “why” for each one, and then ask, “but really, do we need that?!”

2. Try hard to just delete the part or process.

Now that your requirements have been cut down, can you just delete the whole thing?

“If you are not occasionally adding things back in at least 10% of the time, you are not deleting enough.”

There’s a tendency for people to always add extra stuff. It’s always easy to add things, but it’s hard to be selective and choose what actually matters. Less is more.

3. Simplify and optimize.

So the third step – not the first or second – is simplify or optimize. The reason it’s the third step, according to Elon, again with a gem of a quote that I can totally relate to:

“The most common error of a smart engineer is to optimize a thing that should not exist.”

4. Accelerate cycle time.

Now it’s time to speed up the process. Self-explanatory.

5. Automate.

Finally, the last step is automation. Write code to make it happen, take humans out of the loop, etc.

Elon follows up the list with an honest admission – “I’ve gone backwards on this list, several times” and he shares a couple great stories of how he’s gone backwards – automating, accelerating, simplifying, and only later realizing that this $2m robot is installing a part that is not actually necessary for the final product.

Great stuff we can all learn from, thanks Elon!