How JB Straubel of Tesla Breaks Through Incumbent Thinking

ARE YOU MISSING BIG OPPORTUNITIES? Here’s a problem that Tesla Motors cofounder JB Straubel doesn’t have: “The auto industry, you could almost say, is sentimental about the gasoline engine,” he tells THINK. “There are whole teams built around [gasoline-driven cars]. People have built their careers on it. It’s very painful to let go of that and to think something else might be the future.” But the future is here, and Straubel is building it. From lustworthy electric cars to grid-busting energy storage solutions, Tesla Motors’ innovations are built entirely around new thinking. What can incumbents learn from the Tesla model? “I think a lot of incumbents miss shifting technology and they miss big opportunities,” says Straubel. “There’s a ton of resources and lots of capability, but it’s mostly dedicated to preserving the status quo, or growing in very familiar ways.” Straubel’s advice?
  • Look forward: Innovation is exciting, remember?
  • Build from within: By promoting someone within your organization who loves and understands technology, you’ll marry progress with purpose.
  • Be fearless: “If something doesn’t work, don’t worry,” Straubel advises. “You can try something else later and I don’t think members will mind.”
Find out more about Straubel’s take on changing incumbent businesses, fostering forward-looking innovation, embracing technology and building a better credit union. Want more? See JB Straubel’s presentation at THINK 15 in its entirety.