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Moonshot innovations should be part of the CIO portfolio

Moonshot innovations should be part of the CIO portfolio

‘Focus on seemingly unsolvable problems and don’t stop until you succeed,’ advises James Staten of Forrester

New Zealand looks to disrupt nations 20X its size with its moonshots

James Staten, Forrester

Most companies’ innovation initiatives aim to address existing customer issues with incremental improvements to existing products and services or respond to digital disruptors that have started affecting their current business. 

Analyst firm Forrester calls on CIOs leading these efforts to go beyond this.

“Your innovation portfolio should include solutions that expand your market reach, address emerging needs, and involve at least one moonshot,” says James Staten, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.

‘Moonshots’, says Forrester, are innovations that create “net-new values to address emerging customer needs, transform forthcoming market scarcities to abundances, or create novel capabilities that dramatically empower users.”

The term was coined in the 1960s amidst then US President John F Kennedy’s call for creating emerging  technologies that could determine the potential benefit the moon could provide to humans on earth.

Moonshots are not so much a luxury or a folly as they are a necessity

James Staten, Forrester

The newly-created agency, NASA, was also tasked to get a vehicle into space, and eventually take humans to the moon.

The Forrester research points out the technology innovations generated by the programme not only advanced space travel but led to major technologies taken for granted today, such as computing, storage and sensors.

When Kiwis soar

Staten says New Zealand is among those taking on this innovation mindset.

“New Zealand looks to disrupt nations 20X its size with its moonshots,” says Staten, author of a new Forrester report on how to use moonshot innovations to define their company’s future.

Staten cites, in particular, how Rocket Lab, Fleet Space Technologies, and the New Zealand Student’s Space Association partnered with NASA, to pioneer new satellites and space flights from New Zealand.

Rocket Lab was the first to develop the first small satellite launcher to fly under a NASA Venture Class Launch Services contract and send up satellites that reached full earth orbit.

“Rocket Lab represents a second dramatic shift toward smaller, cheaper rockets that fly almost every day,” he states.

Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck Credit: Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck

Rocket Lab represents a second dramatic shift toward smaller, cheaper rockets that fly almost every day

One of the companies that has invested a lot in moonshot efforts is Google’s parent, Alphabet, he writes.

Alphabet created a dedicated team to focus on moonshot efforts, known as X (formerly Google X). 

Some of its mission-driven moonshots are AR-powered smart glasses, self-driving cars and drones and internet access for non-networked citizens called Project Loon.

Staten says X has published its key principles which he encourages enterprises to use as a launchpad for their moonshot initiatives.

The Forrester research summarises them:

Start with a mission that matters: “What is your company looking to ultimately help customers accomplish?”

Focus on CX futures: “Customers’ evolving needs and desires”

Drive broad ecosystem ideation: “The best and most relevant ideas can come from everywhere.”

Spark with imagination, fuel with data: “Moonshots don’t align to current customer needs and thus you need to inspire your target customers with imaginative possibilities with likely value verification through data and trend analysis.”

Think big, but start small: “Road map your execution to deliver MVPs and iterative enhancements that raise solution validation.”

Never fail to fail: “Drive iterations based on road map and MVP feedback misalignment to ensure futuristic success”

Be a platform, float all boats: “Empower ecosystem, customer and market embracement of your moonshots to deliver broader values.”

Open will win: “Empower broad market adoption of your moonshot solution by leveraging open source technologies and open sourcing yourself, core aspects that allow the broader market to follow on with similar solutions.”

Organisations need to create a moonshot innovation team if they want to become a disruptive market leader, concludes Staten.

“Focus on seemingly unsolvable problems, and don’t stop until you succeed,” his research points out.

“Success will come through ensuring your company culture embraces these long-term investments and is open to the inevitable fits and starts inherent in the process,” he adds.

“The reality is that digitisation is disrupting every industry. The good news is that if done right and planned for, digitisation makes it much more possible to move into a whole new industry. So, moonshots are not so much a luxury or a folly as they are a necessity.”

' Spark with imagination, fuel with data'Credit: Dreamstime
' Spark with imagination, fuel with data'

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