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This post is part of our #CannesReporting series – insights from Weber Shandwick colleages worldwide as they attend the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Vasu Subrahmanian, senior consultant from our Singapore office, recaps a session from Google’s secret lab in the post below. 

 

“It is the story you tell that makes a successful ‘Moonshot’ – almost more than the technology behind the idea itself.” 

This was the key learning from a session at Cannes Lions hosted by Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots for Google’s secret lab, Google X. Needless to say, a room full of communicators was thrilled to hear Teller say that we as storytellers may have the one-up over Google’s famed engineers. 

To give you a better understanding of what he was talking about, let me first explain what a ‘Moonshot’ is. In a nutshell, it is a seemingly impossible and yet impossibly important idea that through science, technology and creativity can be brought to reality. 

When looking at creating a moonshot, you need the following:

1) A HUGE problem with the world worth fixing,

2) A radical solution to that problem and,

3) Some reason to believe that your solution is possible.

As stressed by Teller, the first two points are driven by visionaries and storytellers (or visionary storytelling), while technology comes in third to bring these ideas to life. Let me repeat that list in the context of Google’s recent announcement of their initiative, Project Loon, a balloon powered internet for everyone.

1) A HUGE problem with the world worth fixing – 4.5 billion people around the world are off-the-grid with no access to the Internet.

2) A radical solution to that problem – set up floating balloons in the stratosphere – about twice as high as a commercial plane would fly – to deliver Internet to areas that currently have no access.

3) Some reason to believe that your solution is possible – what’s needed here is the technology and knowledge to implement the idea, but more importantly the conviction that you can build something bigger and better than what’s already out there. 

One way to recognise a moonshot is when the idea jumps to making something 10 times better rather than making incremental improvements. Essentially, forget about learning how to walk and jump straight into learning how to teleport. 

So, how does this idea impact storytelling and creativity?

“Storytelling is not the wrapping and the bow that goes around a change-the-world invention – it is the foundation around which the invention can be built.”

Teller believes that stories don’t necessarily come in last to help define an invention – they can just as easily be the path to invention if we think big enough. 

Take the example of Google’s self-driving cars and the stories you could create around it. For instance you could say that self-driving cars will help to reduce millions of auto-related accidents and deaths in the world. Or you could say that this innovation will help solve the urban transportation problem by putting less vehicles on the road. But what if you said that by creating these cars, people would get back up to 10 percent of their working lives – now that is a story with impact that defines the invention, and that is the purpose of visionary storytelling. 

Ultimately, Teller concluded by encouraging us as storytellers to become “moonshot coaches” by thinking bigger and helping to craft not only a compelling story but one that leads the way for invention and innovation like never before. 

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