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Stanford Business School Taps Tesla Motors for Global Executive Program Customer Innovation Project

Tesla Motors will collaborate with executives from around the world to reinvent the car-buying experience as part of the Customer-Focused Innovation executive education program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tesla, a pioneer in electric vehicle manufacturing, will be featured as a weeklong class project to immerse participating executives in the practice of corporate innovation and “design thinking.” Developed by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, Customer-Focused Innovation marries business school classroom models with the d-school’s hands-on field research to help executives better understand customer experiences, develop deeper customer insights, diffuse customer learning throughout their organizations, and improve overall customer satisfaction. The program, aimed at senior-level executives, will take place November 8-13, 2009. For more information or to register, visit www.gsb.stanford.edu/exed/cfi.

“Tesla’s participation allows us to bring real world innovation into the classroom for our executive participants,” says Stanford Business School organizational behavior professor Hayagreeva Rao, who codirects Customer-Focused Innovation with Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at the Stanford Engineering School. “This program fuses the idea of so-called ‘clean models’ of the business school classroom with the ‘dirty hands’ of the design school process. Combining these will be a powerful experience.”

The collaboration will allow Tesla, which has already delivered about 700 cars and takes showroom concepts from retailers such as Starbucks and Apple, to gain extra insight from Stanford academics and participating executives, who typically specialize in R&D, product design and development, marketing, and customer service. Design expert Perry Klebahn, the inventor of the modern snowshoe and an Associate Consulting Professor at the d.school, will be working closely with participants on the Tesla project during the program. Klebahn is founder and former CEO of Atlas Snowshoes, former COO of Patagonia, and former CEO of Timbuk2.

Key features of the Stanford collaboration will have program participants conducting:

  • Interviews of Tesla’s key management and dealership personnel
  • Observation of real car buyers at Tesla and non-Tesla dealerships
  • Ideation, design, prototyping and iteration of new vehicle purchase models
  • Presentation of proposed models to Tesla management


“We are rethinking almost every aspect of the automobile―including the retail experience,” said Tesla CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk. “The Stanford project will provide additional vision and wisdom as we spearhead our North American and European expansion. This is a great example of a creative collaboration between private industry and academia in Silicon Valley.”

About Tesla Motors

Tesla is the only automaker worldwide that is manufacturing and selling highway-capable electric vehicles. The company's goal is to produce increasingly affordable cars to mainstream buyers―relentlessly driving down the cost of EV technology. Tesla also sells patented power train components to other automakers.

San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla, which achieved overall corporate profitability in July 2009, will move its headquarters and open a powertrain assembly facility at the Stanford Research Park. Tesla operates company-owned sales and service centers in California, New York, Seattle and London, and it will soon open regional centers in Chicago, Miami, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Munich and Monaco. More information can be found at www.teslamotors.com.

About Stanford Graduate School of Business

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has built an international reputation based on its two-year MBA Program, one-year Stanford Sloan Master’s Program for mid-career executives, PhD program, and short-course Executive Education programs for practicing executives. As a research institution, Stanford Business School faculty bring cutting-edge management ideas into every classroom.

A highly collaborative culture, combined with a strategically small student body creates a vigorous intellectual environment and compelling learning experience. In 2007, the School introduced a new MBA curriculum that serves as a model of thought leadership for management education. A state-of-the-art business school campus will open in 2010-2011. It is expected to achieve the highest LEED Platinum certification for environmental sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council. www.gsb.stanford.edu.

About Stanford d.school

The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (informally known as the d.school) was founded in 2003. It is a multidisciplinary design thinking program that brings together Stanford students and faculty from throughout the University to collabo-rate and innovate by tackling large, engaging, difficult real-world projects. It is a school crossing, serving students from all of Stanford’s schools by adding the breadth of design thinking to the depth of each individual’s degree program. Design thinking is an innovation process that can be applied to nearly any challenge. It is human-centered, prototype driven, and mindful of process. The solutions that emerge from a design-thinking project may be products, environments, processes, experiences, policies, and more. A multidisciplinary approach ensures that solutions are technologically feasible, viable in the marketplace, and desirable and sustainable for human beings. For more information, visit dschool.stanford.edu.


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