Random thoughts on moon shots

We’ve been talking in The Garage recently about how to pick the biggest, most important projects to work on.

Why? Picking the wrong project to spend time and money on is ridiculously expensive. But how do you know which projects are the biggest and most important?

1. Understand who you are — and who you aren’t: What is your mission and what are the values of your organization? Why do you exist? If you haven’t worked through those questions yet, Jim Collins - author of Good to Great – can be a big help. Here’s some of his work on building your company’s vision, a vision worksheet and an essay on building companies to last.

2. Figure out your moon shot: From Wired on Google’s moon shots: “Larry Page lives by the gospel of 10x. Most companies would be happy to improve a product by 10 percent. Not the CEO and cofounder of Google. The way Page sees it, a 10 percent improvement means that you’re basically doing the same thing as everybody else. You probably won’t fail spectacularly, but you are guaranteed not to succeed wildly.”

3. Focus: Focus only on the winners. Kill everything else. Steve Jobs was famous for his focus. Biographer Walter Isaacson summarized Jobs’ real leadership lessons in Harvard Business Review. As Isaacson reported, Jobs took his top 100 people on a retreat and asked: “What are the 10 things we should be doing next?” People fought to get their projects on the list. Then Jobs slashed the bottom seven and announced: “We can do only three.” Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman also talked about “weeding the garden” to remove the “gunk.”

4. Be lean: Once you pick your moon shot, be agile. Adopt a lean startup mentality to start and stay lean by focusing on your customer first and always.

5. And for fun: JFK on the original moon shot. My favorite part starts at 8:20 and goes for about a minute.

  • Michael

    Ryan, I couldn’t agree with you more — We choose to do this and the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.