George Blankenship, former Apple and Tesla executive, spoke at the MFG Meeting 2015, to discuss innovation, inspiring customer confidence, and most of all— having fun doing it. Here our some of our favorite points.
Failure is important. “Failure was really, really important at Apple and Tesla.” Blankenship talked about how rather than let their many failures beat them down, Apple leaders instead focused on the mindset ‘we have to do better.’ Failures, he said, “help you look at what you need to do differently and take a big jump forward.”
Disruptive thinking can change the world. “Sometimes to change the world, you have to do the impossible.” Blankenship showed the audience a powerful graphic that listed all the things that were “impossible” during his time at Tesla. Of course, all of the so-called impossible barriers were shattered during his time there. He cited the “impossible” nature of over night shipping, which was completely evolved by UPS and now Amazon; and how file sharing under Napster was illegal and persecuted, until Apple figured out how to sell individual mp3’s for just 99 cents. “I believe in the not too distant future cars will have their own Twitter accounts,” says Blankenship. “Customers want innovative thinking…if you don’t innovate, someone else will.”
What makes a great leader? “Conviction, not compromising, and pushing beyond the limits. Elon and Steve were all about conviction.” He said that rather than having a “how can we do this?” attitude, they focused on a “we’re going to do this” attitude.
He shared some fantastic anecdotes about Musk and Jobs to illustrate his point. Apparently whilst building the glass exterior of a cubic Apple store, Jobs was unhappy with the size of the metal fittings holding the glass panels and asked that they be made smaller. When the engineer told him that was as small as they could make them, Jobs paused and said, “No, thats as small as you can make them.” Musk demonstrated similar conviction while at Tesla, insisting that the wheels be held to standard that they be good and safe enough for his own children to ride in.
Who in this room? “Someone in this room will come up with the next big thing. The question is, will it be you?” “Who in this room will make a big move that changes metalforming forever?”
This challenge Blankenship issued in his closing notes is relevant not only at the MFG Meeting, but for bright minds of all ages. This is why we push for stronger STEM programs and resources for students— one of them is going to come up with the next big thing. The more resources we provide them, the more unbelievable that thing will be.