Why the world needs moonshots!

Posted June 17, 2020

When John F Kennedy stood in Congress in May 1961 and announced the ambitious goal of bringing a human to the Moon and safely back to Earth before that decade was out, he also coined an expression. The term moonshot is still used to describe bold visions and goals that can engage a whole world for several years

As a modern example, Google X – a high-tech research and development facility that takes on hard, long-term problems – calls itself The Moonshot Factory.

Good moonshots are not easy to come by. I have tried a few times to capture a vision in a really compelling way, but found that its success depends on many things that are difficult to control. You can call it luck or chance if you like. My conclusion is that you just have to keep trying new ones. The more you try, the more exposed you will be to get lucky.

There are two things that I have learned about moonshots. First, they must be defined in time, otherwise people can’t relate to or quantify the urgency. Secondly, they must pass the “hedge test”. Don’t google that. I made it up to describe the phenomenon when visions are strong enough to leave the leadership corridors and travel all the way out to the citizens so that neighbours talk about them over the hedge. Then you know they stick.

In these highly uncertain, but also very populistic, times I think moonshots are more important than ever before. The pandemic has made many plans and visions a lot blurrier than they used to be. We realise this when we miss things to long for. All of a sudden it doesn’t make sense to look forward to things that used to motivate us. The future fades. And populistic rhetoric feeds us messages predominantly based on fearful scenarios. Slowly and gradually, we start to barricade ourselves from things we fear instead of collaborating for the things we want. For humanity to keep celebrating the idea of 1+1>2, I think we need clear, constructive, inclusive and engaging ideas to share.

After 60 years, it has become time again for really good moonshots. During The Bridge Summit (Oct 7-8), we will aim for a few. Sustainable economic growth, safe drinking water for all, reaching the Paris climate goals, winning against antibiotic resistance – before this decade is out – are good candidates. What would be your favorite moonshot to engage in?

/Jonas Klevhag