Take Your Shot at Mars

As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing nears, my thoughts have been drifting past the moon, to Mars.

In 1962, when President Kennedy challenged the United States to go to the moon he said,

We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

What Kennedy was declaring was the known difficulty to close the gap between our aspiration (the moon) and our ability.  He foreshadowed the struggle and the required unwavering commitment to the goal, the height of the challenge and the urgency of now.

Many organizations today are struggling to deal with the rate of change.  The new frontiers of their industry are shifting faster than their current abilities can adapt.  They are trying to improve, but often aren’t making the progress or reaching the speeds the think they need.  Like the United States in 1962, five years after the launch of Sputnik, many organizations are wondering if they can or ever will catch up to their competition.  

When faced with a other-worldly challenges, we require boundary-breaking tactics and solutions.  Doing what you’ve always done won’t get you there.  And, spending huge sums to become “best-in-class” is really a high priced way to stay forever in second place.  You need your own Mars shot.

Yes, Mars, because the moon is no longer enough.

Declaring your intention to go to your Mars doesn’t mean you’ll arrive tomorrow, but like the U.S. found in 1969, if you never declare your intention you won’t align, focus, and energize the actions necessary to ever get there.

Many organizations are pouring huge sums of money into getting better.  They might call it “transformation” but it is really improvement at best.  Getting better than you are today is necessary, but it is not sufficient to create a sustained competitive advantage that a Mars shot delivers.  The U.S., rightly or wrongly, has been basking in the success of the Moon landing for 50 years and has gone no further.  That competitive advantage sustained longer that I’m sure anyone expected in 1969.

What must we do to get to Mars?  What more must we do? 

Actually, I think the answer is found in doing less.  Less trying to be like everyone else, frees us to learn from the best and reach beyond them, which powers our ability to learn, imagine, and implement beyond the frontiers of our industry. Many organizations have been looking for success by staring at others and copying their behaviors.  Instead, a Mars shot focuses us on the goal, not on the competition, and then we do everything we can to move forward together.

If all of this sounds great, but you’re thinking, “I don’t think I can be the first,” don’t worry.

If the Mars shot is closing the gap between your aspirations and ability as fast as possible, then Mars is already colonized and all you have to do is decide to join those who live there.  The Mars colonists are the organizations that have sustained a competitive advantage by doing what everyone else could, but wouldn’t, do.  For example, Toyota stops production to go faster and Space X reuses its rockets.

They “slipped the surly bonds of Earth,” and reached unprecedented heights using mostly readily available tools, methods, and thinking. The first step to joining them to choose to join them.

Then, you can get on to doing the hard work of leaving your old habits on Earth behind for the ones most suited to your new Mars environment. You can close your aspiration – ability gap. You can start today.  Mars is waiting for you, but not for long.

Are you ready to learn more?

Coming soon, my new book, tentatively titled:

Take Your Shot at Mars: How Organizations Can Rocket Forward to Sustained Competitive Advantage 

Follow me on Twitter (@engineforchange) or on LinkedIn to catch all the latest updates and publication dates.


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