“Almost Every Day In The Moonshot Factory Is Messy”


As I’ve mentioned before, Google does not want to be primarily a search giant in a decade. That would leave the company in a well-appointed grave. That’s why the X division–a bold attempt at a latter-day, privately held Bell Labs–is so critical, moonshots so meaningful. If the company hits on a few, it can reinvent itself on the fly.

Of course, what’s good for an individual corporation is much more of a mixed blessing for a society. Pretty much all of these endeavors have a surveillance aspect, can only be commodified by knowing where we are, what we’re doing and what we’re thinking. They’re aimed at moving us all inside the Plex.

In a Backchannel piece, Astro Teller, X Director and true believer, culls the cutting-room-floor material from his recent TED Talk to further discuss the creative process. It’s a mix of sound advice and Silicon Valley self-mythologizing. The opening:

Almost every day in the moonshot factory is messy. Even when you’re sure you’re learning lots of valuable things during weeks or months of frustration, everyone worries, “What happens if I fail? Will people laugh at me? Will I get fired?” At the end of the day, we all have to pay the bills and want the people around us to think highly of us. So it’s human nature to gravitate toward the paths that feel psychologically safe.

That’s why, if you want your team to be audacious, you have to make being audacious the path of least resistance. People have to feel safe even as they make mistakes or fail altogether — which means we, as managers and leaders, have to make it easy and rewarding to take risks and run enthusiastically at really hard things. Here are a few things we’ve tried at X so our emotional environment keeps us brave enough to say and act on things that have a very good chance of being wrong — and just might be crazy enough to be brilliant.•