Seeing the sky as no limit and instead a gateway to limitless discoveries, moonshot thinking is the way to go in the age of limitless horizons.
An act or instance of launching a spacecraft to the moon. This is how moonshot is technically defined. The term is inspired by one of the boldest missions ever ordered by a chief executive – John F. Kennedy Jr.’s challenge to NASA to land a man on the moon and everything entailed by that “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Taking a cue from this we say, a moonshot is anything but easy. It is far more than a daring bet, or a borderline impossible feat. It is downright an unheard-of possibility.
In an age of decreasing impossibilities, a moonshot goal is worth shooting. Just like any breakthrough idea is not immediately obvious, a moonshot lurks in the often-unexplored areas of our thinking faculties – that space that looks for anything other than the ordinary.
Moonshot thinking is the new wave driving daredevil innovation. It is not simply about upgrading but rather transforming things so their capacity is augmented tenfold. It is rocket-like projections in terms of scope and impact. Impossibility is often a necessary ingredient for a moonshot.
Entrepreneurs could use the moonshot mindset and get in the business of courting the impossible and realizing the unforeseeable. When George Leigh Mallory, a leading member of the earliest expeditions to Mount Everest was preparing to scale the world’s highest peak he was asked why he would want to risk his life for the climb and he replied with the now-famous nonchalant line “Because it’s there.”
Just because it might work is reason enough. In the words of Astro Teller, CEO and “Captain of Moonshots” at X Development (formerly Google X – a research and development facility founded by Google), moonshots are all about the convergence of “huge problems, breakthrough technologies, and radical solutions.” X is committed to pursuing the how’s to solve the world’s most complex problems armed with deep expertise coupled with the striving and ambition of a startup – constantly trying to court the impossible. Progress 10x over and not merely a 10% upgrade is what they are about.
Sparking Moonshot Ideas
As with most ventures, one does not need to have it all figured out right from the beginning although the first job after an idea is conceived is to see how it stands deconstruction. You start and wonder your way through the rest of the puzzle – poking at your design, functionality, impact.
The vast majority of successful businesses didn’t have their big ideas perfectly developed at the start. Instead, they learned by doing, testing, failing and going where their interests took them and where their questions led. In the moonshot tradition, this also means abandoning ideas that do not stand the test of healthy, responsible skepticism.
Moonshot thinking may be counterintuitive to the conventional path – that of least resistance and the zone of calculated risks. It goes beyond the tried and tested road.
Putting your mind on the gap between known answers is a position of potential discovery. How does one apply moonshot practices in one’s business? Rewarding employees as much for their failure in the face of courageous effort chasing big, bold ideas as for their successful input yielding minimal returns – this is a moonshot practice. Adopting failure as a necessary step to new perspectives may be costly but its rewards are rich. Consistently challenging your assumptions about your business model and embracing the path with the most resistance is reflective of the moonshot spirit.
Striving to be an original thinker means selling transformative change. For starters, moonshot thinking requires not only that you try hardest to make something work but also convince yourself even harder that you are wrong – be your own critic throughout the process.
No one can innovate in isolation. Diversify your circles to excite new ways of thinking and doing things. Reach out outside your loop. You cannot think differently if you hang out with the same people all the time. Relationships make the backbone of any business. Connecting with various segments of the market can be key to repackaging your old, failed ideas into renewed, exponentially upgraded solutions.
Your best start-up bet could very well be moonshot thinking. It leads you to reinvent your business even before it takes off.