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What’s our moonshot?

/ 05:08 AM July 25, 2019

Fifty years ago on  July 20, an estimated 600 million people witnessed Neil Armstrong’s now iconic moon walk. Along with this unforgettable image, Armstrong’s immortal words seared themselves into our collective memory: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

That “one small step” did not happen overnight. Eight years before the 1969 moon shot, then US President John F. Kennedy rallied the American public when he declared that “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

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Armstrong’s Apollo 11 mission may be said to have paved the way for the evolution of moon shot (i.e., two words) or “suntok sa buwan” into moonshot (i.e., one word), which now refers to “a monumental effort and a lofty goal” that is ultimately achievable. Consider how Google X describes the mission of its Moonshot Factory: “Our goal: 10x impact on the world’s most intractable problems, not just 10% improvement. Our projects have the riskiness and aspiration of research, and we approach them with the focus, speed and ambition of a startup.” Its Project Loon is a case in point: It uses balloons to deliver the internet to rural and unconnected places. Project Wing, on the other hand, uses drones to fast-track the delivery of goods.

Remembering Apollo 11’s moon shot against the backdrop of Google X’s moonshots reminds me of my own personal moonshots. Looking back at my 19 years with a multinational firm, the best years of my career there were easily those where I was part of monumental and lofty projects. There is nothing like a bold, hairy and audacious goal to get you working into the wee hours of the morning. As Goethe once put it, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, magic in it.”

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What is true of an individual is true of a country. Our kababayan could also use some moonshots in 2019. While calling out our President and some of his Cabinet members when they cross the line is both a matter of duty to God and our country, I think being too caught up in what we do not like about this President, from his penchant for invectives to his hatred of human rights advocates, might make us lose the opportunity to flesh out our version of “10x impact on our own country’s intractable problems.”

I strongly believe we could accomplish more in the coming years if we go beyond Dutertismo in search of our national moonshot. Alas, has any Filipino leader recently articulated a moonshot project that has captured the national imagination?

The closest is probably newly elected Mayor Isko Moreno’s vision to revive the glory of a dying city like Manila. His phenomenal clearing of Divisoria, Recto, Juan Luna and Quiapo augurs well for his version of a moonshot campaign focusing on tourism, health care, traffic and jobs. It is reassuring to note that these priorities dovetail with his 10-year infrastructure project.

While we await Moreno’s counterpart at the national level, perhaps we can reflect as a country on two key questions from John Sanei’s “What’s Your Moonshot?”

One: As we strive to know who we really are as a nation, how do we go about cultivating a victor’s mindset so that we learn from our mistakes and we do not succumb to mediocrity in the face of past successes? Turning to our best minds in history, sociology, psychology and philosophy can help us figure out the answers to this question.

Two: What are the specific needs of our countrymen to which we can apply hyperfocus, hypervalue and hyperpersonalization by drawing from our inclinations and talents as a people? In other words, among the myriad things that our people need, what is the mother of all needs? What are we great at as a country, which we could leverage to address such? This second question challenges the government, civil society and the private sector to engage in countless design sprints and utilize the agile approach in search of out-of-this-planet but doable solutions.

To jump-start the discussion, let me ask you, Inquirer readers: What do you think should be our moonshot?

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Von Katindoy is a philosophy instructor at the Ateneo de Manila and is a certified project management professional.

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TAGS: Apollo 11, Inquirer Commentary, Isko Moreno, moonshot, neil Armstrong, Rodrigo Duterte, Von Katindoy
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