Disruption: Tesla, It’s Not A Car, It’s A Computer


Thanks again Bob Lefsetz for the concise summary of what makes Tesla Motors’ approach to car-making so different from what we’ve seen before. “Elon Musk is selling technology, not an automobile. You know technology, you price it high for the early adopters, and when you’ve got all the kinks worked out, you lower the price and you’ve got a bona fide hit… In other words, Elon Musk is making a car for today. This ain’t the music industry, this ain’t Detroit, there’s no shrugging of shoulders and talk of legacy customers and insurmountable challenges…the Tesla is positively now, as my buddy says, it’s not a car, it’s a computer.”

Likewise, companies like Uber and Lyft are disrupting and smashing the mold of what traditional taxi companies have built, giving people a far better and easier experience, and by all accounts, doing a great job. Testimonials pour in from satisfied customers loving what seems to be uniformly friendly service that’s priced as comparably as most taxis, but with nicer rides and no hassle credit card transactions. I’ve yet to use Uber, but that’s bound to change in the next 30 days. And to not have the frustrating exchange with a driver asking, “you don’t have cash?” while the Visa/MC/Amex sticker lies in their line of vision is alone worth an alternative.

Several friends of mine work with large non-profit organizations, and with few exceptions they all seem to be asking why they can’t gain traction with younger people the way that groups like To Write Love On Her Arms or Invisible Children can. These are groups harnessing technology, media, grass roots outreach and pop culture in ways that most strait-laced orbs never do. They are supported from the ground up and create a wave of action.

And yes, you can focus on the sideshow of IC’s Kony 2012 film, and how one of IC’s leaders seemed to melt down in the attention storm created. But the broader story is that a small charity group captured the world’s imagination by telling a story a different way – using film making and the Internet to bring more attention to a global killer than had been brought in the previous few years.

What’s more – I saw it a few months ago, listed as a benchmark event in the history of YouTube, in a video produced BY YouTube. Kony 2012 was a phenomenon of modern advocacy, and no doubt scores of people have tried to emulate it.

Will the effort to locate and apprehend Kony via Invisible Children last? That’s the challenge of a young organization (and of Tesla, Uber and the like). But the shakeup was a clarion call for what’s possible with someone not beholden to how non-profits or other organizations operate.

Disruption has become a buzzword of sorts, but we all know it when we see it. Healthcare is ripe for this, as my friend Mark Montgomeryhas written about through his own experiences. My guess is that any enterprise that’s become too concerned with its institutional operating is ready to be turned upside down. So too – any place where people generally dread an experience (taxis, car dealerships, DMVs) are places just waiting to be messed up in the best way possible.