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What HR can learn from Tesla’s patents release

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Last week, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, announced on the company blog that they would not be initiating “patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology”.

“When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them,” Musk wrote.

“And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.”

Musk believes this bold move will help raise innovation within the industry as a whole, pushing forward the technological advancements needed to produce more electric cars.

“Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” Musk wrote. “Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.”

Musk’s decision may seem brash but it proves the business world can no longer survive if companies and innovators remained territorial with their progress.

By releasing all of the company’s patents, Musk hopes to raise innovation and progress within the industry, a move the HR industry, among others, can adopt.

Finding the sweet spot between maintaining business competitiveness and bettering the industry as a whole can be a tough challenge, but I’m with Musk on this one.

Over the years, I’ve been repeatedly surprised by the number of senior HR leaders who are not only friends, but also each others’ confidants, open to sharing their challenges and struggles with one another outside formal settings.

It didn’t matter if these HR folks were from the same sector or working on completely different ends of the spectrum – many found that by opening up and sharing, they were able to see problems (and solutions) from different perspectives.

While my first reaction was “but what if they steal all your ideas?”, I’ve come to realise that sometimes, approaching a situation with the entire workforce in mind rather than just one company’s headcount, may be for the best.

After all, what’s the point of having the best people working for you when the rest of the industry can’t keep up, resulting in little competition, no progress and a lack of overall innovation?

So the next time you’re stuck on a problem, consider picking up the phone and having a chat with an HR peer you trust. You’ll never know, you might just come across a new solution to an old problem.

Image: Shutterstock

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Sabrina Zolkifi
Deputy editor
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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