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Elon Musk's Algorithm

Elon Musk's Algorithm

Elon has a distillation of lessons learned while building capacity at Tesla's factories

His algorithm challenges the status quo and proposes operating from first principles.

It has 5 laws and a few corollaries. 


1.8K reads

Step 1: Question every requirement

Each requirement should come with the name of the person who made it.

You should never accept that a requirement came from a department, such as from "the legal department" or "the safety department." You need to know the name of the real person who made that requirement.

Then you should question it, no matter how smart that person is. Requirements from smart people are the most dangerous, because people are less likely to question them. Always do so, even if the requirement came from me. Then make the requirements less dumb.


1.3K reads

Step 2: Delete any part or process you can

You may have to add them back later. In fact, if you do not end up adding back at least 10% of them, then you didn't delete enough.

Often we do things simply because we've always done them. Or because we think we need to. Or because it's our job, and therefore it must be important.


1.19K reads

Step 3: Simplify and optimize

This should come after step two. A common mistake is to simplify and optimize a part or a process that should not exist.

Make sure you don't automate or optimize a process that doesn't need to exist in the first place. Sure, you can make percentage gains by making something better... but why not save 100 percent of the time, effort, or cost involved by eliminating something that creates no value?


1.02K reads

Step 4: Accelerate cycle time

Every process can be speeded up. But only do this after you have followed the first three steps.

"In the Tesla factory, I mistakenly spent a lot of time accelerating processes that I Iater realised should have been deleted."

In simple terms, the two major ways to increase productivity are :

  • to speed up the rate of production (think increasing the miles per hour) 
  • to speed up the time it takes to switch from producing one widget to another.) 


963 reads

Step 5: Automate

That comes last.

The big mistake in Nevada and at Fremont (Tesla factories) was that I began by trying to automate every step.

We should have waited until all the requirements had been questioned, parts and processes deleted, and the bugs were shaken out.


911 reads

Corollaries to Elon's Algorithm: Part 1

Corollaries to Elon's Algorithm: Part 1

  • All technical managers must have hands-on experience. For ex, software managers must spend at least 20% of their time coding. You don't need general who don't know how to use a sword. 
  • Camradery is dangerous. It makes it hard for people to challenge each other's work.
  • It's OK to be wrong. Just don't be confident & wrong.
  • Never ask your troops to do something you're not willing to do


899 reads

Corollaries to Elon's Algorithm: Part 2

Corollaries to Elon's Algorithm: Part 2

  • Whenever there are problems to solve, don't just meet with your managers. Do a skip level, where you meet with the level right below your managers.
  • When hiring, look for people with the right attitude. Skills can be taught. Attitude changes require a brain transplant
  • A maniacal sense of urgency is our operating principle.
  • The only rules are the ones dictated by the laws of physics. Everything else is a recommendation.


870 reads



Life-long learner. Passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship, philosophy, Buddhism & SF. Founder @deepstash.


Elon's framework for problem solving explains a lot of his success.

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