August 07, 2013

The Power of Google's Moonshot Thinking: From NYC to the Moon

Earlier this summer, a good friend from Google suggested that I share the story of Leap Year Project during her team's annual offsite meeting. She thought it would boost inspiration and imagination and was well aligned with their existing philosophy on Moonshot Thinking

After a few calls and some brainstorming, my role had shifted from being a speaker to helping them lead the entire gathering. Together, we assembled a schedule, exercises, speakers, and team-wide events. By the end of July, I was on a flight to New York City to spend two days with a 14-person team at Google's HQ in Manhattan.

It was an exciting trip to say the least. Everything was just as you would imagine, high tech, smart people, great food, and stunning designs flooded every room. For obvious reasons, I can't share many of the specifics of our time together, but one thing stood out: risk.

It never ceases to amaze me how often the idea of taking risks surfaces in different areas of life and work. Through my research and conversation with the team, I learned that Google has a phrase that's been ingrained into its culture: "Moonshot Thinking." It's the idea that products and services shouldn't just grow or improve by 10%, they should be 10x better. And the only way to do that, is to go well beyond the things they currently know and are comfortable with. Sure, it's risky, but for Google, that mentality has fueled truly remarkable innovations such as Google Glass, Self-driving cars, Google Now, and so on.

I'll be honest, there were moments I felt over my head being surrounded by such accomplished people. In under two weeks, I had to learn the intricacies of a new team and their processes, systems, personalities, quirks, and challenges. Inspiring a team to envision their Moonshots is no easy task. There has to be room for the ridiculous and audacious ideas -- but also room to wrestle through the daily details that will drive teams toward those solutions. In the words of one of our speakers and Google Product Manager, Johanna Wright, "The projects that start somewhere, get somewhere."

Wherever you are, shoot for the moon. Take Leaps. Aim for the audacious. But, whatever you do...start today.

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