How to Innovate Faster, Cheaper, Better

At Space Exploration Technologies, innovation is measured in small, incremental improvements. Here's how they do it.

Stinginess Is a Virtue
Founder Elon Musk asks employees to come up with creative ways to save money. Cutting out middlemen, rooting through industrial junkyards, manufacturing a part in-house rather than buying it: Anything goes.

Borrow From the Best
Some engineers believe that everything they work on must be original. At SpaceX, the goal is to take good ideas from anywhere and improve on them. The company has borrowed ideas from automobiles and banks, and modified and improved 40-year-old technology in its own industry.

Speedy, Not Sloppy
SpaceX's commitment to fast prototyping and testing of parts and processes gives it an edge on its competitors. At SpaceX, you make something as fast as possible and then "test the hell out of it," modifying on the fly rather than waiting until it's close to perfect.

Find the Young and the Restless
Musk thinks a small group of smart, motivated people will always outperform a large group. So he scours the world to find the bored and the brilliant. Virtually all employees "own" a piece of the rocket, says Gwynne Shotwell, VP of business development, and they can call the launch off if they're worried about that piece.

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