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What is Moonshot Thinking and How Can it Transform Your Business?

Beautiful moon image to inspire moonshot thinking

Do you ever incorporate moonshot thinking into your planning? It’s easy enough to gather the gist of the idea: a moonshot is a long shot—something difficult to achieve—and thinking about it is the first step toward reaching it. But this is also an intentional strategy that businesses can use to think outside the box and develop in ways they never imagined before. And, with the pace of change today, those who don’t innovate and think forward may be left behind. Moonshot thinking takes you beyond your current day-to-day world. Why not see where that might lead?

What is Moonshot Thinking?

The term “moonshot” originally came about after the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that sent the first humans to the moon. Seven years before, President John F. Kennedy had declared that we would go to the moon within a decade—a claim that was far-fetched at the time. But daring to set the goal ended up in an incredible achievement, that famous giant leap for mankind.

Moonshot thinking sets aims that are completely beyond the current status quo. As David Alayón puts it, it’s “when you choose a huge problem and propose to create a radical solution to the problem using a disruptive technology.” Or, in another great characterization that highlights how nothing is too bold, “moonshots live in the gray area between audacious technology and pure science fiction.”

There are specific numbers that some moonshot thinkers frame their goals around. One of them is Google X’s idea that you should abandon attempts to make incremental gains, such as 10%, and instead aim for a 10x improvement. This is true disruptive innovation.

Another suggestion from Peter Diamandis is to start thinking exponentially, such that the early gains quickly compound into much larger ones. If you can achieve a doubling of results every year, then you can reach a five-year goal by just getting to 6.25% of it by the first year. Setting a specific goal and timeline, just as JFK had said “in this decade,” makes it more likely to happen.

Where Moonshot Thinking is Needed Most

There are problems we face today that need to be solved in the smartest and fastest ways possible. Climate change, sustainable energy & practices, food and water availability, disaster response, and similar issues are pressing ones that need solutions that move at a faster pace than what we’ve been doing. These are areas where game-changing innovations are direly needed. Other industries that can involve tedious gridlocks or administrative slowdowns, such as healthcare, government or law, could also use a rethinking that modernizes them in an entirely new way. Moonshot thinking is especially helpful when applied to big problems like these, but any industry can find ways to revolutionize practices by applying this mindset.

How to Incorporate Moonshot Thinking into Your Workplace

Moonshot brainstorming sessions. When doing planning or building a business roadmap, make room for audacious ideas. A good strategy is to set aside specific time to go over bold and innovative thoughts. These can be team sessions or even an individual’s scheduled time to get imaginative. What’s important is to let traditional guards down and take an “anything goes” approach—even the wildest ideas are welcome.

Encourage and reward innovative thinking. In order to have any chance of growing, new ideas must first be valued and voiced. Understanding that many ideas may not work, but are still worth mentioning or trying, is key to this approach. A company that openly encourages this will be more likely to see moonshot thinking flourish, and that’s the kind of company that will lead in innovation. If you’re a leader at your organization, think about how you could reward this kind of effort.

Look at the big picture. It’s helpful to step back from the everyday detail of what you’re currently working on and think more broadly. How do you really want to change your industry, or society, or the world? What kind of big impact would you want to make if you could do anything through your business?

Change the scenario. Often we automatically factor in our current limitations when approaching a problem. But moonshot thinking is about getting outside of that box. In five years, for example, might today’s limitations be removed for a given scenario? What would it take for that to happen, and how would you reframe your goals if those obstacles weren’t there?

Narrow down and start to forge paths. Once ideas are brainstormed, begin to determine the path(s) most likely to succeed and the steps to take to reach this goal. What will be required in terms of funding, time and other resources? Could a partnership or networking help you move forward? What are the hurdles and how can you get beyond them? And, importantly, what can you do right away to get started?

If this is difficult for you or your organization, you’re not alone and you don’t have to be. In fact, you can even hire a team of innovation professionals to go through this process with you. At Infused Innovations, we’re all about moonshot thinking and helping others achieve the big, lofty goals that will make real positive change. Bring us your questions and curiosities, and let’s moonshoot together!

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