Moonshot thinking: disrupting the norm in business

The moon
Share this content

Maybe you’ve thought about your core values, your mission statement or your vision but what about your moonshot? Yes, your moonshot. Mission, values and vision can often sit on a shelf gathering dust. A moonshot is different.


Originating from the Apollo and Soviet lunar programmes aiming to land humans on the moon, the term is now common business parlance.

A moonshot is a long-term business goal, an audacious ambition or innovative project. Google subsidiary, X, the company’s research lab, refer to their most ambitious projects as moonshots.

Led by Astro Teller, or “Captain of Moonshots” X works firmly in the future rather than the present.

Think AI, Google Brain, the driverless car, Project Loon or Calico, researching life extension.

Like Google X the moonshot is firmly focused on the future, the art of possibility, of what could be rather than what is. A moonshot is something to aim for. It disrupts and inspires your organisation at every level.

What do they look like?

Moonshots are bold. They look beyond strategy towards the future. They are extraordinary projects or proposals that fulfil the following criteria;

  • It addresses a problem, a big one
  • It proposes a radical solution
  • It utilises innovative thinking & technology

Teller takes the moonshot one step further by;

  • Addressing the hardest part of the project first. This is a kind of natural selection, culling unsuitable projects in this phase. Teller describes this as identifying the Achilles heel early on rather than wasting time and money only to discover it later.
  • Rewarding failure. We know from the work of Carol Dweck that learning by failure is the way to go. When a project is killed off in the culling phase, staff are rewarded. Failure is celebrated rather than brushed under the carpet.

Leave the herd behind

Moonshots are game changers. They design the future rather than simply following the herd. So if you’re a business, start up or tech company looking to innovate, forget business as usual and follow our 6 step plan.

  1. Identify the problem - think huge ideas rather than bitesized.
  2. Along with your big idea there needs to be the potential to overcome the problem (this part is mission impossible rather than mission tricky)
  3. Form a team of committed, motivated, collaborative experts.
  4. Work out what the most difficult aspect of the project is and set to work.
  5. Foster a growth mindset. Learn from and celebrate failure.
  6. Get buy in to the project at every level of your business.
  7. Implement the plan. Get to work and reach for the stars.

About Gill Thackray

Gill Thackray

Gill Thackray is a business psychologist, coach, lecturer, writer, mindfulness teacher and regular conference speaker.

Gill has successfully worked with hundreds of organizations to improve performance, innovation and strategy over the last twenty years. In that time Gill has supported a wide variety  of  organizations in their quest for success, ranging from the likes of global organisations (KPMG, Deloitte, United Nations) to national and international non-profits (UK Sport, Water Aid, International Planned Parenting, Breast Cancer UK, British Heart Foundation), universities (London School of Economics, Goldsmiths University, Association of Commonwealth Universities) and a number of successful start-ups (Clarasys, White Box) Gill’s areas of expertise are in the application of psychology and neuroscience in the workplace.

Gill is also an expert on mindfulness in the workplace and has worked with a number of high profile organizations to embed mindfulness into working practices , increasing employee wellbeing, focus and performance. Gill has undertaken a number of research projects as an MSc graduate with Aberdeen University in the field of mindfulness and leadership, regularly speaking at conferences on the subject of mindfulness in the workplace.

Gill’s other great passion is writing, her work is available in a number of fiction and non-fiction publications and she is currently completing her first novel. In her spare time Gill runs a small trust that supports refugees on the Thailand/Burma border, she also has a huge love of travel and is a keen artist.

Gill Thackray is a member of the Association of Business Psychologists, Institute of Leadership and Management, British Neuroscience Association and Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. She has practiced mindfulness for over ten years, having lived, worked and studied in China, Tibet, India and Thailand. Gill is also Visiting Professor at CHE University in Phnom Penh Cambodia.


Please login or register to join the discussion.

12th Jun 2017 11:23


Thanks (0)
16th Oct 2018 07:10

Without a mission, an organisation cannot soar to greater heights because there is no vision yet as to what the team members should work towards. The amount of workload cannot be gauged at this current moment so the planning to be done could be insufficient or overly exerted causing unnecessary stress and even costs. The initial phase needs to be laid out first before executing any follow-up efforts for the long run.

Thanks (0)