4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart

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Few people realize that electric cars have actually been around for more than a century. That’s because our definition of “car” – our mental model – has for almost all that time required the presence of a gasoline-powered engine.

Even in the late 1990s, when GM, Chevrolet, Honda, and Toyota each introduced fully electric models, they sold fewer than 3,200 units among them. Neither the public nor the manufacturers could envision a car culture without the gasoline engine or the vast network of gas stations and other infrastructure that supports it. And since no one could imagine it, it didn’t happen.

That is, until Elon Musk came along.

With charisma, ingenuity, engineering expertise, and the determination to build a company entirely around a purpose-built electric car, Musk first persuaded investors and then the public that a car that needed no gasoline was not only viable but desirable.

It’s a testament to the power of his vision that more than 400,000 people, who might not have previously dreamed of buying a car without a test drive, have already put down deposits for Tesla’s Model 3, which won’t even be available until mid-2018.

Today, businesses in every industry need their own Elon Musks to shatter another entrenched way of thinking: that technology change is an incremental shift within an existing operating model. A new study by the SAP Center for Business Insight, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, indicates that when it comes to digital transformation, companies that fail to get beyond an incremental mindset – and view technology as a tool rather than an integrated part of a vastly different business future – risk their very survival.

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