TeachTech: Three Elon Musk Videos to Inspire Your Students

elon musk videos to teach with
Written by Larry Press

College professor Larry Press uses Elon Musk videos as a way of imparting key business strategy lessons to the students in his classes. Here are three of the best Musk videos, in Press’ view, and why and how he uses them.

aNewDomainElon Musk is an entrepreneur on the cutting edge of societal change. His three fields of focus — sustainable energy, space and the Internet — are all massive industries and he’s at the helm of revolutionary entries in each. Here are three great videos I show to my students to get a deeper appreciation of Musk and what he’s trying to do in the fields of energy, space and Internet communications. You’ll get a lot of them, too.

Watch these Elon Musk videos in place, below. Keep the links to show them to your students, employees or teenagers. Regardless of how you feel about Musk’s various projects and their chances for success, these Elon Musk videos are instructive for anyone interested in creativity, business and social change. Enjoy!

Video One: The Khan Academy’s Sal Khan interviewed Musk in April 2013, earning tens of millions of views. 

This is a personal conversation between Elon Musk and Sal Khan, a great opportunity to learn a lot more about both men. In this interview, you’ll find Musk elaborating on his motivations and goals for investing in SpaceX and Tesla. It’s good stuff.

Video: A Conversation with Elon Musk

Video Two: Here’s an Elon Musk video in which he is recruiting engineers for the SpaceX satellite Internet access project. This January 2015 video is edging towards a quarter million views at this writing.

In this video Musk outlines his plan to create a global Internet service through a constellation of satellites.

Video: SpaceX Seattle 2015

Video Three: In this May 2015 video, Musk announces two monumental products: an integrated open-source battery systems for enterprises, utilities and consumers and the open source Gigafactory required to manufacture the batteries.

Well worth watching.

Video: Elon Musk Debuts the Tesla Powerwall

A Professor’s Takeaway

I’ve studied Musk’s career and his current innovations. As I’ve pointed out to my students, Musk was thoughtful even at a young age. In college he decided on those three areas that would affect humanity’s future — sustainable energy, space exploration and the Internet — but he couldn’t know how he would eventually create companies and products that so directly affect those industries. So he went on to the task of educating himself.

elon musk videosMusk enrolled in graduate school to work on energy storage for electric cars, as most people know. He used capacitors instead of batteries for this project, and only stopped when he realized his capacitor storage system could fail. He then went about the problem in another way, a way that directly led to his founding of Tesla.

At the same time, Musk says he determined he wanted to work on the Internet. He wasn’t content with just studying it. That kind of curiosity, coupled with the singular courage it takes to jump right in, seems to be at the heart of Musk’s most stunning successes.

Musk, in interviews, reveals an intriguing kind of business sense that also is out of the box. He never saw as end goals such typical business devices as profit, stock prices and return on investment. Rather, he viewed them as means to his end, which was his goal of tackling humanity’s largest problems, he says. For instance, Musk plans to help with those issues by bringing bring Internet connectivity to sparsely populated and developing areas and providing 50 percent of global, long-distance connectivity within five to 15 years.  Within 13 to 14 years, he aims to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport to the point that half of all cars on the road in the United States are electric. Within 12 years, he wants to be a driving forces behind sending people to Mars — and within two generations from now, he hopes to see the total elimination of all use of fossil fuels.

In all this, Musk aims not for a solo role. Rather, in these videos, he reveals that he most wants to act as catalyst.

Tesla, for example, was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport, not to dominate the car industry. In my view, this was cemented when Musk announced that Tesla would not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use its technology.

Musk has said the gigantic battery factory that is currently under construction, the Gigafactory version 1, will hopefully be replicated by others. The open source patent ideology will continue with the Gigafactory and battery systems, making the technology, and therefore the advances, available to all.

Another aspect of Musk I like to share with my students has to do with his personality. From these videos, it is clear that Musk is a relaxed speaker with a sense of humor. Musk and Steve Jobs are two of the best speakers I have seen, but here’s the difference: A Jobs presentation was planned and rehearsed to perfection, and it feels that way. A Musk presentation is so free-flowing that he seems to be speaking off the cuff, even if he is not.

In product introductions in the Tesla Energy, Musk’s presentation was Jobs-like in that he used a few slides with images, not text. He spoke over them in the now familiar Jobs style. He even included a Jobs-like surprise. He revealed that the auditorium and talk were powered by his batteries, which had been charged using solar power. This is reminiscent of Jobs’ one more thing” moments or the “three new products” gag from the Apple iPhone announcement that turned out to be just that one big one.

I show these videos and discuss Musk in depth with my students not because I’m a Musk follower who thinks he can do no wrong. It’s dangerous to be slavish to any leader in any line of business, of course. I do it because I believe Musk to be a real factor in global change and the way he has assumed that role is immensely informative to the college students in my class who are just now figuring out what they love and what they want to do with their lives.

Want more videos to share with your students or employees? No need to hunt around.  There’s a YouTube channel that claims to have links to every Elon Musk video. That’s a great place to start.

For aNewDomain, I’m .

Featured image: DragonRider Mock-up – Musk and Bolden” by NASA/Dutch Sleger – http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/cargo/gallery/bolden_musk_hawthorne3.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Inside image: by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons