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Podcast: The key to thriving in an exponential world? Think exponentially.

In an exponential world, a moonshot mindset might just be our competitive advantage.

“What,” you might be asking yourself, “is a moonshot?”

It’s a huge, seemingly insurmountable quest that is ultimately inspirational and game-changing in nature. It’s something that, when achieved, changes the boundary between possible and impossible – just like the Apollo 11 moon landing 50 years ago.

My guests this week have a challenge for the accounting and finance profession: It’s time to start thinking in terms of moonshots.

Sherif Hallaba and Travis Dirks are the chief operating officer and chief technology officers, respectively, for an organization named XLabs. They describe it as a company that builds moonshot companies for the future, powered by artificial intelligence, unconventional computing, and neurotechnology.

And if that sounds a little “out there” for our little podcast … well, it is. But they make a pretty strong argument that adopting a moonshot mindset will have some very tangible benefits for accounting and finance pros.

In this conversation, we cover:

Listen to our conversation here.

 

Moonshots: A history
Fast Company is running a series of 50 articles in the 50 days leading up to the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, which is coming up on July 20.

The seeds for Apollo 11 were planted eight years before Apollo 11 in a now-famous speech by President John F. Kennedy. That speech included the call to action from which the term “moonshot” originated.

That speech was an address on May 25, 1961 to a joint session of Congress, and according to Fast Company’s Charles Fishman, it almost didn’t happen. Fishman writes:

“The fact that Congress and the American people heard Kennedy rally them to race for the moon was the result of a last-minute change of heart. Until less than a day before he gave that speech, Kennedy had no intention of actually delivering it. He was just going to send it to Congress as a printed text, a ‘message’ to Congress, to be read aloud by clerks, to any members who wanted to sit and listen.

“The day before the speech – Wednesday – that morning’s New York Times reported: ‘The president considered, then decided against, delivering the message in person to a joint session of the Congress. But Wednesday afternoon, just 21 hours before he would deliver the speech, Kennedy changed his mind, in part at the urging of Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who thought the message would have much more power if delivered by Kennedy in person.’ ”

Johnson believed that if Kennedy delivered the speech personally, it would “spark a revival of spirit in Washington” – and it worked.

“The next day’s newspapers blazoned Kennedy’s call to go to the moon across their front pages, as if that was all the speech had been about,” Fishman writes. “Congress immediately lined up to provide the billions in funding Kennedy had requested. NASA’s staff and contractors would double within a year. Four years later, NASA and its contractors would be nine times the size they’d been when Kennedy took office.”

That’s what a moonshot is all about — imagining something groundbreaking and then convincing those around you that it’s important and possible.

Now, I get it: We all can’t and won’t begin to start creating these groundbreaking moments. That’s more than a little unrealistic.

What we can do is start thinking in terms of moonshots — adopting a moonshot mindset that embraces the reality of exponential change and imagines what might be possible. That’s the message that Sherif Hallaba and Travis Dirks deliver on this week’s show.

The genesis for this conversation was a keynote address at the 2019 DigitalNow Conference by XLabs CEO Dr. Radhika Dirks, in which she said, “Moonshots are about embracing novelty,” and that “a key mindset of building moonshots is to embrace the non-linear,” to “think exponentially.”

“When innovating,” Dr. Dirks said, “it’s important to diverge before you converge. Start with no constraints on thinking.”

That, I think, is the message of this week’s show: In a world of exponential change, our thinking has to start with the idea that almost anything is going to be possible going forward. The more we get comfortable with that mindset, but more future-ready we’ll become.

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