On July 20, the world will celebrate a momentous achievement: when people first walked on the Moon. The widespread media coverage leading up to the day has made it clear that the Apollo 11 mission resonates for millions of people, even those who were not alive on July 20, 1969. Why? Because the Apollo 11 mission reminds us of what people can accomplish when we work together to achieve the unthinkable. John F. Kennedy’s speech catalyzed and inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers to solve seemingly unsurmountable problems. Apollo 11 changed the world for the better. And Apollo 11 inspires Moonshot to do our part.
JFK’s Moon Speech
At Moonshot, we have a famous quotation from John F. Kennedy written prominently on a wall beside our lobby, and it bears repeating here:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too. – John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962
Everyone at Moonshot draws inspiration from JFK’s words, delivered as part of the famous “Moon Speech,” at Rice University in 1962. The quotation reminds us of why we exist: to do things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. We started Moonshot in 2015 to help the businesses we serve solve their boldest, most critical problems. We are at our best when we help clients tackle their biggest challenges or moonshots, like using ambient technologies to solve critical enterprise growth and value problems.
The Apollo 11 mission is like a muse that inspires us to create. As we reflect on the historic anniversary, we see a number of parallels between the moon landing and our reason for existing.
“Our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort” – JFK’s Moon Speech
The Moon landing required a massive team of people pushing in the same direction. The main obstacles to the landing came not from technology limitations but from cultural ones – from people promoting different agendas and budgetary priorities. Does this challenge sound familiar to you? Today businesses struggle with the challenge of cultural resistance to change – perhaps the biggest obstacle to change. Only by rallying everyone in the enterprise towards a common goal can a business take the steps necessary to improve.
“We choose to go to the moon” – JFK’s Moon Speech
JFK gave an entire country a mandate to solve a single problem: land on the Moon safely. He went beyond challenging legislators; he challenged all Americans to get behind the moon landing. And so the United States followed a democratic process of lobbying our legislators to fund the moonshot and supporting those who got behind the funding of the program. An entire nation focused on solving a singular goal. And that’s exactly how we solve problems at Moonshot. We treat every client challenge as an opportunity to do a moonshot with a singular focus. And then we focus everyone on solving that singular challenge, using tools such as our FUEL methodology. You need both the inspiration and the tools to keep everyone on point if you’re going to make moonshots succeed.
“There is no second-class ticket to space” – Lyndon Johnson
LBJ uttered those words when he carried on JFK’s mission to land on the Moon. Here’s what he said in full when he appealed to Congress to fund the moonshot:
No matter how brilliant our scientists and engineers, how farsighted our planners and managers, or how frugal our administrators and contracting personnel, we cannot reach this goal without adequate funds. There is no second-class ticket to space.
To paraphrase Yoda, there is no try. There is only do. You either succeed with moonshots or you don’t. There is no going halfway to the Moon. It’s essential that businesses adequately fund their change initiatives. You have to go all-in to solve big challenges. But it’s not just how much you fund innovation that matters, it’s how you do it. As I blogged recently, businesses need to embrace smart ways to fund innovation, such as agile funding. Put all your effort behind your moonshot. Be brave. Commit confidently to a continuous journey of learning.
“We have had our failures, but so have others” – JFK’s Moon Speech
JFK was realistic. He knew that if he himself wasn’t 100% behind it, the moonshot might well have lost momentum. Any program without momentum isn’t going to make it to its end goal. He knew that space travel would require trial and error – and time to get it right. Even then, failures (sometimes tragic ones) lay ahead. And innovation is all about having the patience to undergo trial and error. Once you establish a north star for change, the real work happens when you test ideas, reject the ones that don’t work, and take a first step toward launching lovable products that lead to a successful moonshot. This is what using design sprints to create minimum lovable products is all about – taking an approach to innovating in a way that keeps you focused on your goals and minimizes risk and cost.
At Moonshot, the Apollo 11 mission is more than a one-time celebration. It’s a way of life. Congratulations to the people who got us to the Moon. We look forward to more moonshots that inspire the world.