Understanding Moonshot Thinking

David Alayón
Dec 31, 2018 · 6 min read

This year I had the opportunity to go to the Singularity University together with Mónica to participate in the ESADE course “Journey to Business Transformation”, where one of the fundamental points was Moonshot Thinking. In this article I will try to explain exactly what this “thinking” is, what frameworks there are to implement it out and I will give you an extra recommendation by Peter Diamandis on how to use it on a personal level and coinciding with the end of the year. Let’s start!

What is Moonshot Thinking?

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University where he delivered these words: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade”, that planted the seeds to align an entire country to go to the moon. We could say that JFK did not set that goal by knowing how we could achieve it or by promising it would be easy, he simply said that we were going to accomplish something incredible, setting the timeframe and inspiring toward action.

50 years later, Astro Teller has taken this discourse and transformed it into a philosophy, a certain mindset. Teller is the Director of X (formerly Google X), Google’s disruptive innovation division where they ideate, test and launch projects that use cutting-edge technologies to build solutions that can radically improve the world. Literally a Moonshots factory.

We could say that Moonshot Thinking is when you choose a huge problem, such as climate change, and propose to create a radical solution to the problem using a disruptive technology. For this to happen you have to abandon the idea of creating a 10% incremental improvement and focus on a solution that will bring ten times (x10) improvements, or solve it completely.

At this point you are thinking in names like Ray Kurzweil or Peter Diamandis, books like Exponential Organizations, and terms like exponential thinking; subjects that we have dealt in depth in this publication. What Teller achieves is to bring all this together in one place, with a very concrete philosophy and an open framework.

Here you have some videos of Astro teller where he delves into the concept and where he also combines it with other elements such as SDG (sustainable development goals). Very interesting. You can also watch the documentary series “Moon Shot”, 9 episodes produced by J.J. Abrams about teams in different parts of the world that currently compete to complete their missions.

Moonshot Thinking Today

Nowadays there are many projects that have radically changed the way we consume, behave, communicate… Companies like Airbnb, Netflix or Uber are great exponents in their category and they are frequently mentioned when it comes to Exponential or Moonshot Thinking. I think they are real moonshots but that doesn’t mean they work with Moonshot Thinking. I’m sure that they have many of the necessary skills to think that way, but there are a lot of companies aware of this way of thinking that are working with it. Some examples are:

  • SpaceX: “Make humans a multiplanetary species”. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy will be the world’s most powerful functioning rocket when it lifts off later this year.
  • Google’s self-driving car: “Make an autonomously-driven vehicle”. Google’s self-driving car prototype is electronically powered and equipped with the sensors and software to navigate and operate the car. Google self-driving cars have already driven 2 million miles on public roads.
  • Made In Space: “Make everything in space be made in space”. Made In Spaceput the first 3D printer on the International Space Station in 2014. Now, they’re building Archinaut, an autonomous manufacturing platform that can build and assemble large-scale structures in orbit (picture antennas in space that are larger than a football stadium, providing internet to everyone on earth).

There are countless examples: Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos or Virgin Galactic in the space world; JUST or Impossible Foods in the gastronomy universe (trying to eliminate animal suffering); and of course all projects related to the Singularity University. In Europe we also have a Moonshot factory that is also Spanish: Telefonica Alpha. Here is the video of its CEO, Pablo Rodriguez.

Moonshot Thinking Frameworks

And then comes the big question: what is the methodology of Moonshot Thinking? If you have listened to Astro Teller and Pablo Rodriguez (Telefonica Alpha) you will intuit that there is no blueprint or methodology to carry it out, but there are many tools and frameworks that could help us develop moonshots. Here you can find some of them:

Infinite Learning Framework — Singularity University + ESADE

This was the framework we learned in the course and focuses on 5 big steps:

  1. Moonshot Thinking. Although it is the first step, it is the basis of everything. We must “reset” our Operating System and start thinking exponentially.
  2. Moonshot Launch. A journey of “unlearning” about the impact of exponential technologies where tools such as pre-morten or hacker mindset.
  3. Moonshot landing. There is no methodology for this… You just have to read and experiment a lot, see what works and what does not.
  4. Transform yourself.
  5. Transform your company.

The last two points are more related to a change of skills and personal mindset, which can then be taken to a company for a cultural shift. I recommend the reading of “Techno-Creative, the professionals of the future” where digital skills are a basis for Moonshot Thinking. I also recommend this study by Accenture: “It’s Learning. Just Not As We Know It”.

How to disrupt your industry and beat the competition — BlueLobsterCO

I really liked this presentation which introduces Moonshot Thinking and then summarizes it 5 steps we can carry out, inspired by Peter Diamandis.

  1. Hire some 20-something to do some digging.
  2. Question everything and everyone.
  3. Generate Ideas, no limitations.
  4. Catalog, prioritize and select
  5. Fund the best ideas and best teams

Other interesting resources

I leave you with some more links with reflections on Moonshot Thinking:

One More Thing: Moonshot Planner exercise

Here’s an email sent by Peter Diamandis through his Abundance Insider where he talks about a template (the Moonshot Planner) and how to use it for personal goals for the coming years.

Doing anything big and bold in the world is hard.

It takes passion, grit, luck and sometimes a decade or more of hard work to see a moonshot materialize, much less succeed.

There’s no definite roadmap for a successful moonshot; the path is littered with obstacles and failure.

Yet, as my friend Tony Robbins says, success leaves clues.

That’s why, every year at Abundance 360, we do two things: First, everyone, including myself, completes a 5-year Moonshot Planner thinking tool. Second, we listen to incredibly inspiring stories and learn lessons.

If you’re like me, you probably do some end-of-year planning and envisioning. If so, you may want to try the 5-year Moonshot Planner exercise.

Here’s what’s involved:

* 5-Year Goal: Briefly describe your 5-year Moonshot goal in a clear, objective fashion using specific dates and numbers.

* 1-Year Goal: What concrete, measurable milestones can you achieve in 12 months that will put you on track? Remember, your progress is exponential. You just need to hit 6.25% of the target.

* 30-Day Goal: What can you do in the next 30 days to test and ‘de-risk’ your 1-year and 5-year objectives?

* PROOF: What evidence can you provide to your team that this Moonshot is possible?

* ACTION: What single action can you take right now to make immediate progress? (Do it in the next hour).

The next step in your transition from “success to significance” is immersion into the experiences of extraordinary leaders and operators, listening to their epic failures, hard-fought lessons, and pivotal moments that reinforced their vision.

Here you have the PDF with the template and keep up with the “success to significance”. Let’s go for 2019!

#365daysof #transhumanism #moonshotthinking #innovation #futurism #day299

Future Today

High quality curated content and topics related to innovation and futurism along with a little reflection

David Alayón

Written by

Creative Technology Officer & Co-founder @Innuba_es @Mindset_tech · Partner @GuudTV @darwinsnoise · Professor @IEBSchool @DICeducacion · Mentor @ConectorSpain

Future Today

High quality curated content and topics related to innovation and futurism along with a little reflection

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