Showing posts with label business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label business. Show all posts

26 January 2015

A man with a mission

Actually, a man with a whole series of missions. Elon Musk has done some extraordinary things in his life so far. He has affected the lives of most of us; if you've used PayPal he's affected your life. Here's a summary of his major achievements. A glance through the list below will give some sense of the scale of this man's ambitions.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk
Blastar - At the age of twelve, Elon Musk sold the computer code for a video game called Blastar for $500. He had already taught himself programming and created the game. Very few of us have sold software at the age of twelve. I wonder what he did with the money?

Zip2 - When he was twenty-four, he started the company Zip2 with his brother, creating an internet guide for the newspaper industry. Four years later the company was sold to Compaq and Elon made $22 million as a result.

PayPal - Musk started an online finance and payment company called X.com that merged with Confinity a year later. Their main product, PayPal, was the major focus and was acquired by eBay in 2002 - Musk left with $165 million in his pocket.

SpaceX - Elon Musk put $100 million into starting his next company, SpaceX. In 2009, after several failures, the first successful private launch to Earth orbit flew and the company survived. Musk has said that one further launch failure at that point would have finished SpaceX.

But the company is still operating - building and flying ever-better vehicles and selling the flights commercially. A NASA contract to fly cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) has helped support these developments with Dragon, and a crewed version is in the pipeline. The Falcon Heavy rocket is due to make its first test flight in 2015/16, and methane-burning engines for a much larger rocket are under development.

SpaceX is currently valued at about $10 billion.

Tesla - This company builds electric cars and was founded in 2003, Musk joined the venture as chairman in 2004. Following the financial crisis in 2008, he then became CEO and Product Architect and has steered Tesla into the release of three car models with more in the pipeline, he has also offered to supply power-chains to other car makers and allow them access to Tesla's patent portfolio.

Solar City - The idea was Musk's, but the company was founded and is run by others. However, Elon Musk is the largest shareholder. Solar City installs domestic solar power systems free of charge, recouping the investment by taking a share of the proceeds from selling the power produced over a fixed time period.

Tesla and Solar City are cooperating to use electric vehicle batteries to balance out grid power, storing spare capacity by day and drawing power back at night.

Gigafactory - The Gigafactory, part of Tesla, is intended to turn out large numbers of cheap batteries for use in electric vehicles, for power storage for the grid and for other purposes. The initial goal is to reduce the cost of batteries for Tesla vehicles, and the plant is currently under construction.

Hyperloop - Musk proposed the Hyperloop as a new form of transport infrastructure, initially to link Los Angeles and San Francisco. Partially evacuated tunnels and air suspension would allow pods to travel with little resistance and at higher speeds than aircraft. Third parties are designing pods, while Elon Musk plans to build a five-mile test track.

Satellites - Recently, Elon Musk has proposed repeating SpaceX's rocketry and spacecraft success with cheap and reliable satellite design and production. He plans to create a facility for this in Seattle, and co-operate with Google and others in building large numbers of internet-providing satellites in low Earth orbit. Google has become an investor and partner as part of this process.

Mars Colony - Musk has long-term plans to live and die on Mars. The Mars Colonial Transporter will be designed and built to carry 100 tonnes of cargo to Mars at a time. It would also be capable of carrying 100 passengers. The plans involve creating a self-sustaining colony on the surface of Mars, with a population of at least 80 000.

24 October 2013

David and Goliath

There's more than one way of understanding the David/Goliath battle. Malcolm Gladwell identifies some new twists in the story. Things may not always be as they seem at first sight. And that's true of all situations, not just those in which we think we are facing giants.

Goliath laughs at David
Goliath laughs at David
Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting way of looking at the famous incident of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-54).

There are elements in the story that he overlooks, especially David's reliance on Yahweh. But he closely examines some details that we might normally gloss over.

Who is Malcolm Gladwell? He is a famous thinker and author, in particular he wrote The Tipping Point, a very influential book published in 2000.

Although it's a secular book, it has many ideas useful in missional movements. In fact, it might not be stepping too far from the mark to say that the book is about missional movements - just not Christian ones in particular.

A new book - His latest work, released in 2013, is called David and Goliath and comes with the strapline Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Watch him as he speaks at TED.



Malcolm Gladwell has clearly understood the story of David and Goliath in a different way. As he explains, we normally approach it thinking of David as the underdog. But this is not really the case; David knew exactly what he was doing.

While the story does mean what we usually take it to mean (that we should not stand in awe of a giant, but face even the most massive of issues with confidence); the real significance of Gladwell's interpretation is that it encourages us to remember that things may not always be as they seem at first sight. [Tweet it!] And that's true of all situations, not just those in which we think we are facing giants.

Questions:

  • Have there been situations in your life when you have felt small and helpless?
  • How did they work out for you?
  • How important is it to 'know your enemy'?
  • Do you think it makes a difference if you are confident? To You? To others?

See also:

10 October 2013

Caring for rich and poor

How can you look after rich and poor at the same time? An imaginative organisation in Edinburgh has found a way to do just that. SocialBite is a successful experiment in selling great food while also helping the local poor and reaching needs in the third world.

SocialBite in Edinburgh
SocialBite in Edinburgh
SocialBite is near the western end of Rose Street (parallel to Princes Street).

It has a small but attractive shop front and offers a range of excellent breakfast and lunch choices along with hot and cold drinks and more.

Think Pret a manger or Subway with more interest and flair and a special personal touch. You get the idea. I had a great coffee and a stunning bagel with peanut butter, banana and honey.

SocialBite is barely a year old, but plans to grow into a major chain; and these people have a special heart for the homeless and the poor.

How SocialBite works - Their profits go to charity; they are active in Scotland but also in Malawi and Bangladesh. And there's a small basket on the counter where customers can leave their change for "suspended coffee". People without money are welcome, and when the basket contains enough, they can use it for a coffee or a bite to eat.

Not only that, some of SocialBite's employees are people who have been homeless and without a clear future. Once people have an address, a job, and friends to support and encourage them, the future changes from hopeless and empty to a series of new and exciting opportunities.

Well done SocialBite, and thank you. You blessed me with an amazing bagel. I bless you in Jesus name, that you will prosper and grow and help many people in many lands.

If you haven't already watched it - go and see the video on their home page. What an awesome story!


Questions:

  • Could you do some of this good stuff where you live?
  • How about suggesting the suspended coffee idea to a business in your town?
  • How about contacting SocialBite to see if you could help begin a new branch?

See also:

26 July 2011

THOUGHT: Follow my leader

Ex Google CIO, Douglas Merrill, says that businesses tend to look in all the wrong places for strategies that will lead to market success. He doesn't say it in so many words, but he certainly implies it. I think he's right and the principle applies in every field of human endeavour - work, sport, church, business, science, technology, and more.

Douglas Merrill, ex CIO of GoogleSome of the things Douglas Merrill said are mentioned in this IT World article, I'll list the most provocative of them below. My own experiences working in science, technology and IT for BBSRC and in web development for Unilever strongly support the Merrill view.

Below each item I've added some questions about common ways we 'do' church. Do we need to rethink?

  1. Companies stuck in traditional management practices risk becoming irrelevant.

    Might this apply to some of the more traditional denominations? Might it even apply to some attempts at smaller, organic expressions of church too? What practices and traditions and habits do we cling to - even though they don't feature in the New Testament?

  2. Leaders should not be afraid to do 'dumb' things. Sometimes being dumb changes the game. (Example - In 1990 a young Kodak researcher invented the charge coupled device which is the core of every camera today. His boss said, 'You're a moron - we make film'.)

    Where do these 'dumb' things originate? Often from the 'naive and simple' people on the 'shop floor'. People who know how things really are, people who are not divorced from the practicalities! Managers are often not in touch with reality. How often has a church leader dismissed a good idea as impractical when it might have made a huge difference?

    Innovative ideas in technology and business are like inspiration in church. Can we rely too much on the Holy Spirit's guidance and prompting? Should we suppress some of the things he reveals to us? I don't think so!

    Just because a new idea challenges the status quo does not mean it is wrong.

  3. The more project management you do the less likely your project is to succeed.

    Jesus said, 'I will build my church'; how much room does that leave for project management? If his role is to build, what is your role, what is my role? Hint - we are living stones, he is the builder, what is the role of a stone in the hands of the builder?

  4. It's not about hardware and capex.

    Buildings, sound equipment, projection facilities, big budgets - is church about these things? Does it really need these to succeed? What are the truly important things about church?

  5. Build your product and then figure out what to do with it.

    If someone comes up with an idea that might work, give it a try. What is there to lose? If it turns out to be effective take advantage of it. If not, look for the next good idea. Be open to spiritual guidance and prophecy. Test prophecy, in fact test everything. But don't reject something just because it's new or different.

    When Jesus gives you something but you're not yet clear what it's for - ask him to show you.

  6. The most important thing to take advantage of is to see innovation from everywhere - inside and outside.

    Steal good ideas wherever you see them! Something that works well in other walks of life may adapt very well for church application. Be wary and alert, not everything is suitable or beneficial but rejecting an idea just because it comes from business or education or entertainment is foolish.

  7. It is prudent not to listen too carefully to customers ... you can't ask your customers what they want if they don't understand your innovation.

    For 'customers' read people who need to get to know Jesus. Don't pay too much attention to what people say they need. Show them love, demonstrate the truth, let the light shine.

  8. Don't lose the ability to learn from the people who do the work. People will do what you measure - make sure you measure the right stuff.

    Don't pay attention to things like tithing, attendance figures, outreach programs. Instead try to find ways to 'measure' (in the loosest sense) love, caring attitudes, gentleness, wisdom, joy, and peacefulness. Give out feedback on what you see. If you tell someone how impressed you were at the thoughtful and loving way they handled a situation they will be encouraged. Never miss an opportunity to encourage!

  9. Hire someone who annoys you as they are more likely to be diverse and diverse practices are better.

    The hiring part probably isn't relevant, but do try to spend time with people who will challenge your actions and words and motives. Don't avoid people who think differently from the way you do. Make up your mind to benefit and grow in grace through everyone you meet, however inconvenient or unattractive they might seem at first.

  10. The single most common thing executives do is get in the way.

    Hmm... Who are the executives in church life? Don't listen to them! Love them, but step around them when necessary. We have one head, not many headlets.

  11. The culture of secrecy in business is a fallacy and people should talk about everything, well, almost everything. IT security people tell you what you can't say and HR people say you might hurt people's feelings, but the actual stuff you need to keep secret is small.

    Be suspicious of any areas of secrecy in church life. There is no place for 'us and them', for clergy and laity, for special and ordinary. Sometimes there's a need for confidentiality, but ideas, plans, proposals and decisions should all be as open as possible. Everyone should be involved in these aspects of church.

Food for thought? Please leave some comments, I'll check back to reply.

12 October 2010

ENVIRONMENT - The cost of damage

This article from the BBC News website spells it out pretty clearly. Environmental damage comes with a heavy price ticket, but the underlying and far bigger issue isn't mentioned. Because our population is way more than the planet can support (and still growing rapidly) it may not be possible to chart a way out of the mess we have created. We have left it far too late.

BBC article on the cost of environmental damageBut it's encouraging that a major news provider is publishing an article like this one. At last, after many decades of warnings from the scientists there is growing evidence that the media, governments, and businesses are beginning to accept that we really do have a problem.

Of course there are useful things we can do. We have already started to do some of them (renewable energy, fishing quotas, emission controls, banning persistent pesticides, and much more). But we are in a phase of the human story where improvements are becoming harder and more costly to achieve while the costs of not making those improvements is also rising rapidly. And I don't mean financial costs alone, but costs in terms of living standards, health, and human safety.

The first step towards any hope of recovery is to recognise that we have a problem. It's becoming clear that at last we're taking that step. Now we're in the phase of broadening and deepening our understanding of the issues we face. That, at least, is good news.

See also: Biology and the economy, Climate change - an update, Nitrogen trifluoride - should we be concerned?

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