Elon Musk: Build Products That Bring Joy.

If you look at the outcome from the epic two and a half hour interview that Elon Musk gave Joe Rogan, you’d think that all they did was smoke weed and drink. While the conversation ranged from AI to Scotch, there were a few powerful insights.

When Joe asked about the wide range of businesses that Elon had started and what had connected them all, he said something like, “I just want to build products to make the future better than the past”.

While this is not too far off from what I said about Elon in my blog post “How to be the next Elon Musk” he also said something right after this which really struck me. When referring to his “flamethrower” to which he repeatedly said “is not a flamethrower” and “it’s a bad product that no one should buy” he said:

“I like to build products which bring joy. There are so few of those.” He said, wistfully.

He went on to describe an Easter Egg in the Tesla programming that allowed the car to dance and play “ Wizards In Winter from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra”.

At first, I thought why not, the car itself has two motors and possibly four independent wheels, with the right software you could make it skate around a rink like Mirai Nagasu. While the real dance is much less involved than what I imagined, it’s still fun.

We spend far too much time envisioning new products and services to enhance our bottom lines, simply solve a customer problem and go no further to delight the customer or help give them a competitive edge over others. We spend far too little time imbuing our products and services with joyful touches or just creating with the sole purpose of having fun.

That’s a lot of what Elon does. Not only does he envision and build cool new forward-thinking products, but he also has fun doing it. We need to bring fun and simple joy back into our lives.

Try this: instead of focusing your next ideation session on building more profitability, or solving an existing problem, focus on fun. How can you bring more joy into your customer’s lives? What kind of product can you envision that could do that? For Elon, they were hats, “flamethrowers” and bricks. What can you do to deliver fun in your products or your customer experience?

  • If you’re in financial services, how can you make “bill pay” fun? Maybe turn it into a video game where you “zap” the bills as they come at you, Galaga-style.
  • If you’re in retail, how can you make shopping for toilet paper fun? Maybe sponsor a “TP Race” where your customers can compete against the clock and win a free package of toilet paper if they can get from the starting line to the toilet paper location in the store and back within a certain amount of time. You can even block off the route for safety. People will wonder what’s going on and then when they see people tearing around the corner with a package of Charmin in hand and running to the finish line.
  • If you’re building apps, go the extra mile and add in some element of fun, gamification or even a little “absurd touch” that may make your customer laugh out loud. Like this: many chat based interfaces now provide “auto-reply” prompts, and I’m almost 100% sure that they add in at least one “wild card” response meant to be funny. The other day my son was getting rid of some things and leaving them out front near a tree with a “free” sign on them. He was asked on Skype chat, “what else can we get rid of if we left it near the tree”, and one of the auto-reply options was “your soul”.

I don’t know if that was a human programmer or the AI (which would be freaky), but it was funny.

Elon’s completely right: we need to build more products that bring joy.

Join us in ideating just that, and we just may be able to make the world a happier place.

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image source: seamuswray instagram