Disruption: Opensource

28 April, 2015 by Michael Williams

We talk a lot about Impact at Deloitte Digital. It’s our mission as a firm to make an impact that matters. And recently, we’ve been talking more and more about how disruption can help us make that impact. Disruption is the game-changer. The thing that nobody saw coming. And that’s why we like it.

In April 2014, Elon Musk - CEO of Tesla Motors gave hints to a dramatic move that his company were about to make. The savvy media were all over it, and a few days later during an impromptu interview with the BBC, Elon Musk admitted this dramatic move was to do with Tesla’s patents. In June of that year in a packed-out press conference at his white-washed Tesla lobby in Palo Alto he finally broke the news that all of Tesla’s patents for building electric cars were now free.

Let’s think about that for a second. The business of building your intellectual property and protecting it from your competition is a basic pillar of capitalism. For most companies, what they know is 90% of what they have. So to give it away like Elon Musk did would be like performing corporate hara kiri. So why did he do it? And with Tesla? A company not only making huge bounds in battery powered cars, but also a company floating on the stock market, with shareholders deeply, deeply invested.

No one in the automotive industry, never mind the tech industry saw this coming. Elon had his disruption, but what would be the impact?

Tesla’s mission statement is simple. To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. Every dollar spent, person hired, and piece of metal welded is to achieve this mission statement. Their mission is not to become the biggest car manufacturer in the world, or to make a 400% return for their shareholders, it is to bring round the advent of sustainable transport. But what it doesn’t say, it that it has to be Tesla who do this. They recognise that their mission statement will be achieved faster when all car manufacturers, engineers, scientists, students and entrepreneurs begin innovating together. Whether it is in silos or whether they feed back into the open source, progress will be made on a scale that Tesla alone could never have achieved.

It is this singular, uncompromising attitude that drives Musk towards this goal, and the single reason he expects all of his employees to want to work at Tesla. Not because they will make money, but because they have the opportunity to make a real, global impact that matters.

The power of disruption, whatever shape it takes is evident, and this flavour of disruption is far more than a good PR stunt. Especially when it makes a huge leap towards achieving the mission.