Eric "Astro" Teller, co-founder of Google's Moonshot factory, has published a wonderful blog post reflecting back on his experience over the past ten years. Teller offers some important lessons that he has learned about how to unleash what he calls "radical creativity" in an organization. My favorite tip is to "cultivate the ability to be passionately dispassionate." Here's an excerpt:
Cultivate the ability to be passionately dispassionate. While we can’t predict the future, we’re trying to invent it efficiently, to maximize the impact of our effort and resources. So it’s absolutely necessary to be intellectually honest and kill things that are pretty good (even if we love them!) so we can move on to even better opportunities. It’s something we keep trying to get better and faster at, though it’s deeply unnatural. It’s never easy to kill projects. Over the years we’ve had to disband dozens of teams and walk away from hundreds of gorgeous ideas, including a carbon-neutral fuel made from seawater.
Entrepreneurs who are charging passionately toward their vision often need to be coached to pop their heads up regularly and switch their mindset to dispassionately assess their situation. Sometimes people say to us, “You have to keep going at this because no one else will.” But that misses the point. Yes, we want to invest in far-out technologies with huge promise when they’re still so risky no one else will. At some point, though, once we’re satisfied that the technology has been somewhat de-risked, we need to test its commercial viability. If the market is as excited about it as we are, other companies will put money into it too, and we’ll keep going. But if they won’t, then maybe we’ve been kidding ourselves, and we should walk away and redirect our time, resources, and talent to more promising solutions.