6 months ago I posted this question on Facebook: Would you implement a plan that’s in the best interest of your company if it meant the possibility of losing your job? The post received a good number of comments and opinions, with most of them more or less answering yes. Feel free to add your comments too if you haven’t! While the question that I asked on Facebook applies directly to the workplace, the bigger question is what I’ve chosen to title this post. How far would you go to do the right thing?
The episode of 60 Minutes last night, March 30, 2014, featured two people that came face to face with this question, and both stories were quite impressive. So as not to take away from the broadcast, which you can watch here if you haven’t seen it, here in a nutshell are the two things that prompted the question of doing the right thing to resonate in my mind.
Brad Katsuyama left a high paying job at Royal Bank of Canada to start IEX, the investor’s exchange, when he found out investors were being front run and scammed. When you hear his story, he was motivated to uncover and solve the problem because it was the right thing to do, even though it wasn’t his own money that was being lost.
“‘Cause it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right that people who are investing on behalf of pension funds and retirement funds are getting bait and switched every single day in the market”
~ Brad Katsuyama on 60 Minutes
Would you be able to walk away from a job paying millions of dollars just to start a platform to help others make money without knowing if it would be successful? That’s a tough question and easy to answer when it’s not your situation.
“Well, I didn’t really think Tesla would be successful. I thought we would most likely fail. But I thought that we at least could address the false perception that people have that an electric car had to be ugly and slow and boring like a golf cart.”
~ Elon Musk on 60 Minutes
The second example came from Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX. When asked about starting a car business Musk said he didn’t think that it was going to be successful at all. And when asked why start it if he didn’t think it was going to be successful, Musk replied, “If something’s important enough you should try. Even if you — the probable outcome is failure.” What you should know is that Musk is aiming to get the Tesla to be a $35,000 car, and while that might still be a steep price to pay for a vehicle he’s also got other plans. He’d like to build “a network of charging stations where the driver pays nothing for a fill up”, and that those stations would be solar powered. In my opinion, that’s doing something good for everyone else while trying to save the environment, the right thing to do.