The Moonshot Effect: Disrupting Business as Usual
October 24, 2016
What does Kennedy's challenge to get America to the moon have to do with your business? Leadership consultants Lisa Goldman and Kate Purmal explain.
I haven't kept a precise count of all the books I've read this year that have had something to do with space exploration, but beginning with my very first Editor's Choice review (of The Right Kind of Crazy by Adam Seltzner, who managed the project that landed the Curiosity rover on Mars), it seems like I've stumbled upon at least one a month. Whether it's been about the "rocket girls" at the Jet Propulsion Lab who did much of the human computing that launched the first rockets off the Earth, the history of the X Prize, or the story of Motorola's Iridium satellite system and what has happened to it, the exploration of space is the place (or, at least has a place) in business books.
Although their new book is entitled The Moonshot Effect, Lisa Goldman and Kate Purmal (and with their writing partner Anne Janzer) bring it down to Earth. They use the story of the first moon landing—it's great conceit, its success, and its ripple effects—as a jumping off point to discuss the importance of challenging ourselves and our teams, to set audacious goals and chase them. It's stories are also of breakthrough technologies and scientific exploration, but in the business world. It's about how "disrupting business as usual," getting out of a cold war, zero sum competitive crouch and calling on more aspirational aspects of competition can break the fear and drudgery of our work lives and inspire breakthroughs.
We defined moonshot as a complex, large-scale objective that can be accomplished only when teams abandon “business as usual.”
Moonshots require significant breakthroughs in attitude, innovation, leadership, processes, management, and technology. They demand extraordinary execution and are often marked by seemingly unrealistic time lines.
Most moonshots are driven by a desire to be first, or the best, or the fastest. They disrupt the status quo.
Kennedy's cold war challenge mobilized an effort to get America to the moon before our competition. The world would change in the collective effort to reach that goal, in both how we view ourselves, and the way we organize ourselves. The lessons learned, technologies developed, and organizational practices implemented to get us there would seep into the rest of our economy, and continue to power creativity and invention today.
But none of it would have happened without a strong leader standing up and challenging a nation to dream bigger. At a time when the world was caught up in an arms race, perpetually on edge, it called on the better angels of that competitive conflict and human aspiration. It called for a collective effort. It called out a single, seemingly impossible goal—and, in doing so, made it possible.
There are probably a lot of things you think your organization isn't quite capable of. What happened if you changed your mind? What would happen if you decided it is possible? What if you changed the way you operate, and compressed the time frame to get it done? It would be a lot of work, but we all have a lot of work to do, most of it just happens to be mundane and rather uninspiring. Setting a larger goal for yourself and your organization may be what you need to end the drudgery and rekindle the passion and commitment in your employees. It all begins in the moment you make up your mind to go for it. If you're ready to step into that moment and "escape the gravitational pull of day-to-day burdens" by motivating your organization to dream and do bigger, Kate Purmal, Lisa Goldman, and Anne Janzer's new book will help launch you into that work.
We have 20 copies available.