I was at Google’s Women Techmakers event this Saturday and it was a somewhat productive way to spend my day. I did expect it to be better than it was, but as always, that’s a case of my own mismanaged expectations. There were several speakers at the event, some of them good and some not so good, but I really enjoyed Karishma Shah’s talk about Moonshots. This isn’t necessarily a new topic of discussion, the concept of a moonshot has been around for a while. Google[x] is probably the loudest advocate of moonshot thinking, and I was personally very inspired by Ken Norton’s essay 10x not 10 percent.
For the uninitiated though, the basic idea is think big. As a society, there are so many problems we still haven’t found solutions to. Global warming. Poverty. Hunger. Disease. The list goes on. These are the kind of problems that moonshot thinking will help you solve. I’d sort of mentioned this earlier in the context of the kind of companies I’d like to work for—if it’s not an important problem with a unique solution, I don’t want to solve it. This rules out Instagram for cats and Tinder for travellers from my job search.
Instead of looking at incremental improvements to existing solutions, moonshot thinking means starting with a blank slate—completely reimagining the problem statement. This type of thinking I’ve realized is much harder than it sounds. It requires us to exercise brain muscles that we haven’t really exercised before. It requires courage and conviction. But once you have all the prerequisites in place,
It’s often easier to make something 10x better than it is to make it 10% better. – Astro Teller, Google[x]
There was an interesting question that all of us at the event had to answer.
What is your moonshot?
I heard the question and I was pretty stumped. I know about the large problems – all of us do, but I always dismissed them as being too large for me to solve. I think that’s another aspect of moonshot thinking, you’ve got to believe that you can. As for my answer to the question – I still don’t have a perfect answer. The biggest step for me though is that I’ve started to think about it.
With that said, watch this video, it gave me goosebumps.