Elon Musk. It’s hard to read any business publication and not run across some story of the Thomas Edison/Henry Ford of our time. I read two particular stories – one where Elon was used to inspire action, and the other where Elon himself pledged to take action. Let’s see what we can learn from both examples.
The first example, curiously, is a BMW employee meeting. As detailed in this article, BMW employees were brought to an airplane hanger and Elon’s sinister face was used to put the fear of …well…Elon into the assembled throng:
“Inside a bright auditorium at an abandoned airfield near Munich, rows of men and women gaze at images flashing by on a giant screen: a Mercedes sedan; Porsche and Jaguar SUVs; the face of Elon Musk. “We’re in the midst of an electric assault,” the presenter intones as the Tesla chief’s photo pops up. “This must be taken very seriously.”
The audience is composed of BMW Group employees flown in for a combination pep rally/horror film intended to make them afraid about the future of the industry. The takeaway: The market is shifting in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago, and BMW must adapt. The subtext is a recognition that the company has gone from leader to laggard.”
The scene above sounds a bit like the horror scenes force-fed to Alex in A Clockwork Orange, or perhaps the iconic George Orwell-themed Apple TV Ad introducing the first Macintosh. I like to believe the film was accompanied by some thrilling Wagner music.
- BMW is smart to pick a villain. People respond better when they can envision an external threat (something, sadly, that political leaders know too well).
- If you’re Elon Musk, you know that when the competition is using you to scare their employees you’re doing something right. Not that Elon really cares.
- That said, the truest barriers to established brands’ success in the new era are seldom external. As Clayton Christensen and others have pointed out, the eating of existing market share is consumed in small bites and enabled by business models that are constructed on new technologies and business processes.
My guess is that BMW spent quite a bit producing their internal horror flick, flying people in for the pep rally and feeding them excellent German sausages and beer. Meanwhile, back at Tesla….