Before you say, yeah, right, but moonshot thinking is by its very nature, hard to quantify and only useful in very remote instances, take a look at this slide below; though Moonshot thinking only gets 10% of Company budget, it is responsible for generating 70% of the revenue (This is taking a long-term view, over years, rather than over the short-term range of standard financial quarters):
We played a great exercise where we were asked to count the number of red balls on this slide in 3 seconds. Quite a few got the correct answer - 10. However, when Dr. Pablo Rodriguez asked us now to tell us how many green balls there were, no one got the answer right. There were fewer of them and they were larger. In a nutshell, he described the dangers of over focus. You may be so intent on solving one problem that you may completely miss solving a much greater, more significant and simple one!
Clearly, the problems Alpha has solved, whether for improving performance at Telefonica, radically changing health habits across the globe, or bringing power to regions that were greatly lacking, all required phenomenal, high-performing, cross-functional teams. I asked him how he selected his teams; his answer stood out. He selected those who had an absolute passion for solving these problems. If you think you might be that person, Alpha is hiring right now. They are fully owned by Telefonica, though by definition they are totally independent of it, despite having Telefonica's CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete López, on their board.
Pablo has worked as an entrepreneur, at various start-ups in Silicon Valley, as well as in Academia. He showed the curve of an idea, where at the very early stages, often Academia can do best in advancing innovation. In a much later stage, it could be a start-up. His projects sit in the middle of that, between academia and start-ups.
He also makes a great point that in the 20th Century, it was the government that primarily initiated innovation; The creation of the internet, the human genome project and yes, of course, NASA pioneering the first men to the moon, were all government-backed missions. But now, and in the future, most innovation is driven by corporations. This can come in many forms, from Alpha, which is owned by Telefonica to a start-up, like Cloudlock, which was founded by one of my colleagues at Northeastern University Business School, being bought by a corporation, CISCO.
This was a brilliant lecture, up there with the one I attended on Venture Capital and the one on problems of productivity in the Western World. I thoroughly commend Professor Milan Vojnovic and Dr. Pablo Rodriguez.
If you are still skeptical about Moonshot thinking after reading this, I want to leave you with a great quote about it from one of the founders and CEO of Google: