Hiring The Right People
with Elon Musk
Filmed June 2008

Video Comments

Interactive Transcript

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me a little bit more about the philosophy of how you make that all work, how you attract the people, and how you manage it.  You talk about the first principles of physics.  Do you actually apply the principles of physics to your philosophical thinking of how to do this?  Or, take me into that realm.

ELON MUSK:

Well, what does the phrase "reason from first principles" mean in physics?  It means that you go to the very basic laws of physics, the things to which we believe to be extremely well demonstrated.  In other words, the reason they call it a law is that no one has ever demonstrated an exception to that, ever.  That's how it qualifies as being a law.

But even then, laws can be broken where you can find some corner case in a very unusual circumstance that will break it.  And that's the transition from Newtonian to Einsteinian  mechanics. Newtonian mechanics are actually extremely predictive of reality except as you approach the speed of light.  Since, you know, back in the day with their primitive instruments, they couldn't detect these tiny little differences.  So you know Newtonian mechanics appeared to predict everything perfectly.

But you take these very fundamental laws and you say, "Now let's use those as the ingredients from which we will construct a conclusion, a theory.  'Cause we know that base is sound, and we, so, therefore, if we're able to combine those elements in a way that's cogent, that conclusion will be sound.  That's what I mean by reason and conclusive first principles.  And I think that general approach can be taken in many fields.

INTERVIEWER:

And how do you translate that to getting the right people to think that way, to these breakthrough ways of thinking of these innovations that go on?

ELON MUSK:

Well, getting the right people is extremely important.  And I actually interview everyone at SpaceX personally.  And we're a 500 person company.  So that's a lot of interviews.

INTERVIEWER:

What do you look for in someone?

ELON MUSK:

What do I look for?  It depends on the task.  You know, it's different, and I'm not necessarily looking for someone who has brilliant analytical ability if their job is going to be assembling hardware.  But I think, generally, I look for a positive attitude and are they easy to work with, are people gonna like working with them?  It's very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life [and] your job is gonna be quite miserable. And, in fact, we have a (CLEARS THROAT) a strict "no-assholes policy" at SpaceX.  And we fire people if they are. I mean, we give them a little bit of warning.  But if they continue to be an asshole, then they're fired.

INTERVIEWER:

That's innovative, right?

ELON MUSK:

Yeah.  Because you know, if your boss is an awful person, you're gonna hate coming to work.


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