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作者: 来源: 日期:2016/8/4 8:26:38

Elon Musk’s vision is a masterclass in communication





Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled a “master plan” for his Tesla electric car company this month.

本月,亿万富翁企业家埃隆马斯克(Elon Musk)公布了一份其电动汽车公司特斯拉(Tesla)宏伟蓝图”(master plan)。广州汽车翻译公司。


The reviews, it would be fair to say, were far from delivering a verdict of mastery. Investors harrumphed over his desire to branch out into solar energy. Analysts complained about scant details. Tesla’s stock sagged. It seemed that the man who is often said to be the inspiration for Tony Stark, the brash tycoon in the Iron Man movies, might finally have lost his knack for vision.

可以这么说,外界对此项规划的反响欠佳,认为它算不得高明。投资者对马斯克将公司业务拓展至太阳能领域的计划嗤之以鼻。分析师抱怨该规划缺乏细节。特斯拉股价下跌。人们常说,《钢铁侠》系列电影中傲慢自负的企业大亨托尼斯塔克(Tony Stark)就是以马斯克为原型创作出来的,但马斯克本人似乎最终失去了展望未来的才能。


Yet in one respect at least, namely the clarity of the master plan itself, Mr Musk retained his power to impress — giving a masterclass in jargon-free business communication that others would do well to copy.



From self-driving cars to space rockets, Mr Musk’s ambitions veer towards the madcap. A few days ago he bounded on to a stage in Nevada, at the site of what will become the world’s largest industrial building: the Tesla “gigafactory”.



This giant $5bn factorysite will eventually churn out batteries designed to power many of the company’s products, helping to fuel its broader expansion. Yet while Mr Musk’s growth strategy is often grandiose, his ability to explain it is not.



Start with length. His master plan was brief: a crisp 1,500 words or so, covering about two sides of A4. It used short words and sentences, and contained little in the way of jargon, meaning just about anyone who read it would be able to understand what it said.



There was no PowerPoint, no fancy diagrams, and no accompanying pictures of smiling children. Instead, it laid out what Mr Musk planned to donamely: make cheaper cars and trucks under the Tesla brand, branch out into solar energy, and press on with plans to make cars that drive themselves.



This didn’t please everyone. Investors are wary in particular of Mr Musk’s $2.6bn move to buy SolarCity, a solar power company, which wrapped up on Monday. Some question the financial logic of that deal. Others worry about conflicts of interest: the South African-born entrepreneur is SolarCity’s chairman, while the chief executive is his cousin.



But either way, Mr Musk at least made the case for the acquisition in straightforward terms, arguing that he had always wanted to build a sustainable energy company, rather than one that made only cars.



“We can’t do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine [them],” he wrote.



Not everything in the plan was perfect. The title, “Master Plan, Part Deux”, referring to a plan produced a decade ago, is more than a little hubristic.

在该规划中,并非一切都是完美的。标题《特斯拉宏图之第二篇章》(Master Plan, Part Deux)(第一篇章制定于10年前),不是一般的傲慢。


Jargon is not entirely absent: at one point Mr Musk talks about “highly differentiated solar”, a concept that left me scratching my head. Perhaps his biggest mistake was talking up the safety of his self-driving cars without mentioning directly why people were worried about this issue — namely the death in May of a Tesla driver, who had been using the car’s autopilot system.



Even so, the clear, concise writing style Mr Musk deployed remains both unusual and welcome, not least for the way it makes the company’s plans comprehensible to those who might buy his cars, or work in his factories.



Yet few corporate leaders copy it. Many persist in pretending that their businesses are more complex than they really are. Others pick up bad habits in business schools, listening to management experts who are rewarded for dreaming up convoluted ways of describing simple problems.



The entrepreneurial titans of Silicon Valley are far from guilt-free in all this. The tech sector, especially in areas such as business software or IT outsourcing, is often among the worst offenders for speaking in a linguistic code of its own creation.



Yet every now and then, people like Apple’s Steve Jobs or Mr Musk come along, who seem to have the self-confidence to cut out much of the blah that otherwise dogs their professions. When they do, they should be congratulated. Plain English alone is not going help Mr Musk make good on his vision for electric cars and sustainable energy. But it can’t hurt.

不过,时常会有像苹果(Apple)的史蒂夫乔布斯(Steve Jobs)或马斯克这样的人物出现。他们似乎有自信抛弃大部分的废话,否则会影响他们的专业性。当他们这么做时,应该得到称赞。只靠简单明了的语言,无法帮助马斯克实现他对电动汽车和可持续能源的愿景。但这也不会有损他的宏伟蓝图。


The writer is a visiting research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy NUS, Singapore, on sabbatical from the FT

本文作者是新加坡国立大学(Public Policy NUS, Singapore)李光耀公共政策学院(Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy)的客座研究员,目前正从英国《金融时报》休假