‘Our mind-set will be to avoid the moonshot’ said Boeing CEO James McNerney at a Wall Street analysts meeting in Seattle nearly 5 years ago (see Gates, 2014). The ambitious, exploratory and risky endeavour dubbed as moonshot project of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner had sunk billions of dollars in an industry where end-users demanded more comfort and convenience for less cost. According to McNerney, moonshots do not work in a price-sensitive environment. It is argued that they also tend to take the focus away from more immediate value capture opportunities as seen through Google’s loss on its core Cloud Platform to Amazon Web Services (AWS). Google’s parent company Alphabet which oversees Google X (a semi-secret moonshot project lab) more recently reported that it had incurred a US$1.3billion in operating loss on moonshot projects with a sizeable increase in compensation of employees and executives working on these projects (Alphabet, 2018). Notably, none of the Google X lab spin-outs (e.g. Loon – a balloon-based internet project, Waymo – self-driving car project, Wing – drone delivery project) have been identified as commercially viable. Despite the uncertainties and failures, the focus on moonshot innovations continues to proliferate in academia (Kaur, Kaur and Singh, 2016; Strong and Lynch, 2018) and practice (Martinez, 2018). Yourden (1997) even wrote an interesting book on perseverance and tenacity to keep going even after failed projects. Proponents of moonshot thinking have claimed that it can help solve society’s biggest challenges (e.g. cure cancer, see Kovarik, 2018) with some suggesting to encourage such thinking by paying failure bonuses (Figueroa, 2018). Yet others remain sceptical, positing that moonshot is ‘awesome and pointless’ (Haigh, 2019, p.4). A proverbial question, thus, emerges: are moonshot innovations simply wishful thinking or can they be part of business-as-usual? In part, the answer may be two-fold – 1) understanding the value of moonshot thinking, and 2) understanding moonshot challenges. (...)
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).