By Iqbal Thokan
Continuously learn something new and relevant every day and share it with those around
There once lived a genius who was considered the most influential physicist of the 20th
century and he said “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and only cease at
death”, Albert Einstein.
What Einstein, in my view, was alluding to was the fact that learning is an indispensable part
of our growth, survival and existence and this goes for both the individual as well as the
collective (within our business or organisation).
Today, we are constantly learning, whether it be visually, through the videos and images we
are constantly bombarded with on social media, or by listening, through seminars or talks,
or by just doing. Whichever learning style we prefer, we need to ensure that the learning is
relevant and beneficial to us, what we stand for and what we are doing.
The key to learning something new is to be able to absorb it and truly understand it, its
implications, its usefulness and its application. This way we are able to stay self-motivated,
expand our skill set, and also identify and develop future opportunities.
Continuous learning allows us to avoid stagnation and to grow to reach our full potential.
For our businesses, the right knowledge helps us prepare for the unexpected or at least
have some sort of plan. Take COVID19 for example, while we are still not sure of its impact,
leadership with the right knowledge can make the right decision. In South Africa we have a
large pharmaceutical chain store called Clicks and in a recent article in the financial mail, the
CEO was quoted as saying, “we didn’t start planning for COVID19 when it hit SA, we started
when it hit China”. This proved to be very valuable for the group as it allowed them to
increase their inventory in anticipation of the pandemic which in turn assisted them with
sales as well as generating cash for what we now know is going to be a tough couple of
Acquiring the right knowledge helps us to stay relevant in a time of constant and drastic
change. As the ancient Greek philospher Heraclitus once said “the only thing that is constant
is change”. By acquiring new relevant knowledge, we are able to change our perspective
and attitudes and this allows us to view challenges in a new, unique and different way.
Relevant learning helps us to be innovative and find new solutions to new or existing
problems, it also allows us to boost our confidence by improving on our capabilities and
strengths. But more importantly it allows us to change our perspective
However, as business owners and leaders, learning new knowledge shouldn’t only be about
us as the individual, it should also be about those around us, especially those within our
business. The ability to share our knowledge is what makes us great leaders.
By sharing our knowledge, we empower the people within our business so that our business
can have the competitive edge. It also allows us to work faster and smarter as we now have
more people on the same page, and rather than getting external experts we can now rely on
internal resources to assist us with the expertise we need.
Knowledgeable employees are better equipped to assist customers and increase customer
satisfaction in our businesses and are more productive as they feel more appreciated.
Sharing knowledge does not stop with those close to us, but we could also share knowledge
within the industry to assist it grow. To share how this works I want to introduce you to a
famous South African who is making strides in trying to make the world a better place. After
having spent most of his young life in South Africa, Elon Musk left South Africa at 17 to avoid
mandatory service in the South African Military. After pursuing many successful companies,
one of them being PayPal, Musk co-founded Tesla Motors in 2003 with a vision to create
affordable mass produced electric cars. One of the things Musk understood was that Tesla
could not grow the electric car market on its own as the market required large amounts of
investment into infrastructure and this could only happen if there were competitors who
were able to produce electric cars as well. He realised that by growing the industry he could
lead by being the industry innovator and in this way expand his offerings in many more
ways. Hence, allowing him to leverage off the work being done by others. So, instead of
keeping the knowledge he acquired to himself, in 2014, he released the cars patents into
the market for any one to use, free of any royalties or restrictions.
Acquiring knowledge is useful acquiring relevant knowledge is valuable and allows us to stay
relevant. Sharing that relevant, valuable knowledge allows us to survive and to thrive.
Iqbal Thokan is an experienced business management consultant and the founder and co-
owner of breedingpositivity.com
Starting a business — or even getting involved as a professional — when you’re young can be intimidating. You might have knowledge about business from school, books or practical advice from sources online, but there’s a big difference between understanding business fundamentals on paper and gaining wisdom through actual experience.
By the end of your career, you’ll have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and hundreds of lessons, but there are some lessons that you should learn early on — ideally before you turn 30.
These lessons are some of the most important to learn while you’re still young enough to make use of them:
1. The right people are worth everything.
It’s almost impossible to build a successful business by yourself. Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, there will be mentors, partners, vendors and peers alongside you helping you achieve your long-term vision. So, recognize how valuable other people will open you up to more opportunities, help you keep an eye out for new contacts no matter where you are and make you more discerning in decisions like hiring and long-term deals.
Learning this lesson early will prevent you from wasting time on the wrong people and give you more time to work with the best people you find.
2. You’re going to fail — and that’s okay.
No matter how much you know or how much you prepare, failure is going to be inevitable for you. Your business may become successful overall, but there will be individual strategies and campaigns that crash and burn, and ideas that fizzle out entirely. Facing failure with the realization that it is, in some contexts, unavoidable, makes it. easier to accept.
You can view it as a lesson and an opportunity to improve, rather than an end point or a sign that you should give up entirely.
3. Time is your most valuable resource.
The adage that “time is money” is an apt metaphor to describe the power that time can hold when budgeted and used as a resource. This works in a few different dimensions. For example, the sooner you start something, the more time you will have to generate benefits for yourself, and the more time you’ll have to work with that project.
Additionally, you only have so many hours in the day, and how you spend them has a direct impact on how much value you’re able to produce. The sooner you learn this lesson, the more time you’ll save.
4. Communication can prevent or fix almost any problem.
The power of communication can’t be underestimated. Communicating proactively can prevent the development of almost any problem– by explaining things clearly, setting firm expectations and mitigating misunderstandings. Communicating well can also help you resolve any problem, whether it’s making an apology, coming up with a mutually agreeable solution or explaining circumstances.
5. Perfection is the enemy of progress.
Because of the fast-paced business environment we live in, waiting to move forward with a new initiative because it’s not quite perfect can mean the failure of that initiative. Agile, flexible, adaptive businesses that demonstrate an understanding that things can be tested and optimized while they’re already producing a return on investment are the ones that succeed.
You’re never going to get it perfect on the first try. But be sure to balance your initiative’s “readiness” with agility and speed.
6. All ideas must be rooted in practicality.
No matter how good or original or appealing your idea is, it’s only as valuable as it is practical. For example, if you have a vision for an amazing video, but you don’t have the resources to produce it in an efficient way, you have to drop the idea.
The same can be said of any business idea; you may have a revolutionary new concept for an enterprise, but if there’s no way to make it feasible or profitable, you won’t be able to move to any form of execution. Sometimes, the best ideas have to be tabled due to a lack of practicality.
7. There is always more you can be doing to keep learning.
No matter how much you know, or how much you think you know, there’s always more information to learn. You’ll always have room to be a better leader and a better entrepreneur, and there will always be new skills and abilities to acquire. Maintaining a course of constant improvement will keep you at your best for as long as possible.
The earlier you learn these business lessons, the more time you’ll have to use them in a practical environment, and the fewer repercussions you’ll face in neglecting them (whether intentionally or unintentionally). You’ll never be perfect, so don’t worry if you make mistakes or forget things you would have benefitted from.
Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.
Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate 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. 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. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.
At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.
At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.
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. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. 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.
We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.
Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.