SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
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  • Elon Musk on Tuesday advised top business leaders to ditch spreadsheets and instead seek criticism of their product.
  • "Are CEOs from corporate America focused enough on product improvement? I think the answer is no," Musk said at the WSJ CEO Summit.
  • "My recommendation would be spend less time on finance, spend less time in conference rooms, less time on PowerPoint, and more time trying to make your product as amazing as possible," Musk said.
  • "Just get out there on the factory floor, get out there in the store, talk to customers," he added.
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Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk on Tuesday said other CEOs should spend less time looking at their finances and more time seeking criticism of their product if they want to run a successful business.

Musk became the second-richest person in the world on November 24, surpassing Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. His net worth is nearly $145 billion, just behind Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos at $185 billion, according to Forbes.

In an interview at the WSJ CEO Summit, Musk said CEOs should "spend less time on finance, spend less time in conference rooms, less time on PowerPoint, and more time trying to make your product as amazing as possible."

Teaching yourself to have a product innovation mindset

"Are CEOs from corporate America focused enough on product improvement? I think the answer is no," the billionaire said.

Even if product innovation doesn't come easily to business leaders, Musk said the skill is "absolutely learnable." He said the first step people should make is simply to try hard.

"If you haven't tried hard, try harder," he said. "It's not some mysterious thing."

CEOs should aim to be "absolute perfectionist about the product that you make or the service that is provided," Musk said, adding that they should also seek negative feedback from all corners - "from customers and from people who aren't customers."

Musk urged business leaders to take a step back from the situation and ask themselves: "'Is our product as awesome at it could be?' Probably not. What could you do to make it great?"

The Tesla CEO said companies sometimes think that even though they don't like the product they're making, other people will. "That's not how it works," he said.

"If you don't love it, don't expect others will either."

The 49-year old said if executives are spending a long time doing presentations and reviewing spreadsheets, they're "barking up the wrong tree." They should be spending "more time on the factory floor or time with customers," he added.

As well as being CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Musk is also the founder of the Boring Company, and co-founder of OpenAI and Neuralink.

He's had plenty of high and low points during his career. In an interview on CBS's 60 minutes in 2014, Musk said 2008 was "the worst year of my life" as Tesla was losing money, SpaceX was was failing to launch its Falcon 1 rocket, and he was getting divorced.

But 12 years later, Musk's companies have reached major milestones, including SpaceX partnering with NASA to complete its first launch of astronauts into space, and Tesla's market value topped $500 billion.

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