Friday, June 13, 2014

Tesla gives away patents



Tesla, the electric car company is planning to make its patents open source. This is a counter intuitive move. On the one hand there are big firms that spend tons of money maintaining a troop of lawyers who fight patent infringement and scientists who are, really patent trolls, but spend time creating layers of patents so that nobody can use anything. Sure, both sides are justified in their own way and they may have legitimate reasons for doing so, but from a learning standpoint, the latter course of thought appeals to me.

 A few years ago while heading a learning team, I had told the team to give away their content. This simple proposal was met with a howl of protest.
How could we give it up, they argued.
We have spent hours doing this work, they said, indignantly.
If we give away our content, what will become of us, they asked, ever more insecure.

And I was able to convince the team that they need to do exactly that. Give up their content. They finally, reluctantly, agreed.

And guess what, some of their best work came after they gave up on all the old content, created new content of different types, innovated and took their team a few levels up.

Giving stuff away makes one do more, much much more. Now, I know comparing patents from a high tech company to creating learning courses is not the same thing, but if innovation is your forte and you continue to innovate and do great work, giving away stuff is a great idea.

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