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UX Consultancy Guide for Clients

Elon Musk's startup design process

Minimum Viable Product
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Published:
August 26, 2021
Updated:
August 27, 2021
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Mario Stipetic

CX lead

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UX Consultancy Guide for Clients

Introduction

In "Starbase Tour with Elon Musk [PART 1]" Youtube video Elon Musk disclosed his "battle-proven" five steps product design innovation process that can apply to any startup.

In SuperSuper CX agency's daily work, our clients are faced with the same challenge; how to streamline the design process and make a successful startup.

Our client regularly got bogged down with unnecessary features and too long design and development time.

Elon Musk, in the video embedded below, presented his process in the SpaceX rocket company context.

This article will translate Elon Musk's process to the general startup process applicable to any mobile app or physical startup.


Elon Musk five step business process

The context of Elon Musk's talk is the presentation of a SpaceX Starbase to Tim, the host of the popular engineering "Everyday Astronaut" youtube channel.

Screenshot of "Starbase Tour with Elon Musk [PART 1]" Youtube video released by "Everyday Astronaut" channel.

Elon musk explains five steps process that he successfully uses to innovate on a large scale with SpaceX and Tesla company.

Elon Musk design rules:

  1. Make your requirement less dumb
  2. Try very hard to delete the part of the process
  3. Simplify or optimize
  4. Accelerate cycle time
  5. Automate

1. Make your requirement less dumb

Elon Musk: "Your requirements are definitely dumb, no matter who gave them to you."

Musk also added: "Everyone is wrong, no matter how smart he is."

As a startup founder, you must question the requirements and identify the parts that do not make sense.

From SuperSuper CX agency experience, this is particularly true because requirements are specific steps to achieve a particular goal. Still, you can only discover the proper steps after taking this discovery journey and digging into the details.

In the startup design and production process, the person writing the requirements is usually the founder or CEO, and your designer or agency must question the requirements along the design process.

2. Try very hard to delete the part of the process

Elon Musk: "If you are not occasionally removing things, you are not leading enough."

Elon musk argues: The bias tends to be very strongly towards; let's add this part in case we need it. But you can make similar arguments for so many things.

Your team should move fast because, in a startup, the available funds' timer starts ticking the moment you began.

As a founder, you should focus on the things that will be crucial for your product-market fit confirmation.

For example, if you are creating a revolutionary mobile app, focus on the core of your product, your unique way that differs you from the competition. Create only this part and test it live on unbiased users. Delete everything else that you do not need, like advanced features.

Musk added: "Whatever requirement you have, those requirements must come with a name, and not a department.".
Individual team members need to stand by the requirement because it is easier to track the request's source, especially when the team member switches jobs.

3. Simplify or optimize

Elon Musk: "The most common error of a smart engineer is to optimize the thing that should not exist."

Musk argues that we all have been taught to answer questions but not question the question itself.

This leads to refining the things that are not crucial for the startup product-market fit.

Try to think; do we need this feature, or can we replace it with something else that will require less time and energy.

For example, if your core idea for a product-market fit is an app where designers draw diagrams based on client paper sketches, do you need to implement a robust custom communication system or the payment system?

4. Accelerate cycle time

Elon Musk: "If you are moving too slowly, go faster, but do not go faster until you worked on the other three things first."

Your MVP release time will be crucial for your success; if you move too slowly, you will run out of funds, or your competition will get there first.

A common challenge to our clients is that they wait until everything is perfect, although customers have higher standards now; the things outside of the core of your product shouldn't take a lot of your team time.

5. Automate

Elon Musk: "I have personally made the mistake of going backward on all five steps, multiple times. So I have to repeat this.
I automated, accelerated, simplified, and then deleted."

This reverse process mistake is the one that we all probably did at one point. The impression is that we know enough to start and invest the majority of our efforts into production without doing the proper prototype, user testing, and user research.

MVP design prototype and user research will help you get incredible unexpected details into customers' behaviors and likes.

The prototype can be built with less than 5% of the actual development and marketing costs and will potentially save you 80% of the costs.

With prototype and actual testing, you will follow the Elon Musk process from point 1 and not from point 5.

Contact us for any help regarding the prototype design or user research and testing.

Outcome

By following the Elon Musk process ( in the correct order ;) ) you and your startup team will streamline the startup production process and increase chances of success.

Be sure to take a look at the video of the Elon Musk five step design process at the SpaceX rocket plant below.

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Authors

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Mario Stipetic

CX lead

Mario has worked for New York and San Francisco-based startups and large corporate companies such as ZTE. He specializes in UX solutions for eCommerce sector.

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