Elon Musk, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Product Architect of Tesla Motors, Inc. is a renowned disruptive innovator. An engineer, Musk pioneers new frontiers in high-risk, high-barrier-to-entry business ventures including SpaceX, SolarCity and the Hyperloop. But how does he think when faced with probing investment analysts during earnings conference calls? I analyzed the thinking he demonstrated during Tesla’s 2013, 2014, and 2015 first quarter conference calls.
While combing through the text, I was stunned by Musk’s lack of coherence. I wondered about his stress level. Although many of his statements were disjointed and incomprehensible, I did my best to rate the contents based on our Hierarchy of Thinking Styles.
Having interpreted thousands of Optimal Thinking 360 Assessment reports, I expected Musk’s thinking profile to reveal a combination of Optimal Thinking and extraordinary positive thinking, with a small percentage of the other thinking styles. I also expected Musk to clearly articulate actual results compared to desired results. But, I was wrong.
This assessment describes how Elon Musk thinks in this specific situation. Surprisingly, Musk presents himself as a moderate thinker—more positive than negative—when he discusses Tesla’s performance and expectations during these calls. He often uses words like “good”, “positive”, “hedging”, and “okay”. He also uses phrases like “cautiously optimistic”, “good idea”, “quite significant”, “fairly small”, “not so much”, and “moderate effect”.
Musk employs moderate positive thinking to display reasonable confidence and self-assurance when discussing market realities, particularly during the 2013 and 2015 calls. He focuses on how things can be done and how to make them happen. In 2014, the combination of extraordinary thinking and Optimal Thinking starts to eclipse his moderate approach, in keeping with his persona as an extraordinarily innovative engineer.
As a rule, moderate thinkers are motivated by acceptance from others. In these challenging situations, it appears that Musk chooses to fit in with the mainstream. While his vision is extraordinary and he expresses significant optimism, he provides conservative commentary on delivery and avoids going out on a limb.
By choosing the best option in any given situation, Optimal Thinkers eliminate the “should haves” and “could haves” from processes and outcomes. Additionally, when the cost is high, optimism is the wrong strategy. Optimal Thinkers face the brutal facts and take the best actions to achieve the best solutions.
Musk uses Optimal Thinking to articulate his commitment to optimization.
we should just try to produce cars in the right way for the various markets.
He deploys Optimal Thinking when discussing the seats in the Model X.
They are the nicest second row seats you’ve ever seen in any car ever.
He also uses Optimal Thinking to pursue his optimum vision while embracing negativity.
We’re slowing down U.S. deliveries and trying to make people as happy as possible, given the production constraints.
To definitively assess your thinking and compare it to how Elon Musk thinks, take the Optimal Thinking 360 Assessment now. I developed this assessment for my executive coaching clients over 26 years. More than one million executives and 6500 companies have used the assessment to uncover their primary thinking style, thinking patterns, core motivation, decision-making and communication styles, and how to best interact with others. Take this assessment on your own as a Self-Optimization Assessment or with your team as a 360 to confirm your strengths and weaknesses, discover your blind spots, and optimize every situation.
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