July 1

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I Love Elon Musk’s People Are Vector Analogy

By Mimi MacLean

July 1, 2021


Photographer: Alex Kotliarskyi | Source: UnsplashPhotographer: Alex Kotliarskyi | Source: Unsplash

I recently heard about Elon Musk's People are Vector Analogy on a presentation by Dharmesh Shah (Hubspot's cofounder), where he talks about a personal interaction with Elon Musk. Elon explained to him the best way to optimize your team is to think of each employee as a vector.

I thought it was a perfect illustration to demonstrate the difficult task every CEO has of overseeing employees.

But first, a quick physics review of what a vector is. A vector is a given quantity that has two properties, magnitude and direction.

Suppose you have ten employees or vectors for this analogy, and each is going in a different direction. In that case, your company will not be as productive if all your employees go in the same direction.

So the trick is to get each of your employees or vectors going in the same direction because then you can add up each of their magnitudes to get the sum of your company's output. If even just one employee is confused and going in a different direction, this will impact the entire company's production.

So how do you get each vector going in the same direction?

You need to:

1. Get employees to buy-in. Explain to them this analogy and how important it is to all be going in the same direction

2. Have standard operating procedures in place to mitigate any chance of mistakes. Time setting up systems on the front end is money and time saved on the backend from any confusion caused by the lack of systems. Review your procedures quarterly with your team to ensure every step is accounted for properly.

3.Accountability is imperative. Make sure a clear delineation of ownership of a system exists so if something does go wrong, you know who to talk to about what happened. It is also essential to implement KPI, Key Performance Indexes to ensure systems are working.

4.Most important is the WHY. Ensuring your employees understand the end game is crucial to ensuring the emotional element is present. If an employee doesn't believe in the mission or the end game, they will not have the deduction and passion for bringing their best to work.

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