This past Thursday, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) conducted their quarterly earnings call. The company’s ability to grow and basically print money wasn’t unexpected at all, since they deliver exceptional performance with stunning regularity. What drew controversy was the amount of money the company lost in the quarter on moonshots, projects that could be game changers over the long term but don’t have a near-term payoff.
$859 million. That’s right, almost a billion dollars of losses on idealistic projects that may never pay off. Self-driving cars, high-speed fiber and life sciences, among others, are far afield from Google’s meat-and-potatoes revenue of Internet advertising. With such a seemingly catastrophic misstep, you might expect callous Wall Street traders to severely punish the stock price. Yet the company gained 5% on the news. Put another way, the company “lost” $859 million on pie-in-the-sky experiments but gained $27.3 billion in market value. How does this make any sense?
Penny-pinching CFO’s may see red, but the innovators at Alphabet envision a beautiful hue of gold. Companies that enjoy sustainable success are the ones that allocate a certain percentage of their budget for moonshot projects. Fully understanding that some ideas will flop, this becomes the laboratory for the next big commercial success. Rather than waiting to be jarred by a disruptive entrepreneur, organizations that invest in the future are the ones who enjoy it.
While most of us don’t have piles of Google loot lying around to invest, we can still embrace the concept of moonshots. When you examine the resources at your disposal – time, money, talent, equipment, materials, software, etc. – think about allocating a small percent to your own moonshots. What if you deployed 5% of your annual revenue toward big, bold ideas for the future? While it may feel risky, or even frivolous, think how different your company or career may look five years from now by investing in game-changing endeavors. At the same time, think how the competition may blow right past you if you focus only on maximizing short-term gains while ignoring the moonshot ideas altogether.
Your moonshot could be a product or a service, a process or a procurement innovation, team structure or geographic expansion, corporate culture or customer experience. Explore the various elements of your business, and you’ll discover plenty of moonshot possibilities to pursue.
No matter the size of your organization, someday a company will come along and put you out of business. It might as well be you. Use a moonshot as your shot – to discover new possibilities and ensure long-term success.
Now that’s a shot worth taking.