Annie Duke for the Behavioral Scientist: Mental Models to Help You Cut Your Losses

Astro Teller is the CEO of X, though his actual job title is “Captain of Moonshots.” His only requirement for accepting the position, granted by Google’s founders, was that he had complete autonomy over the company. Even though X is a subsidiary of Alphabet, he has always insisted on cultural separation.

X has become a famous incubator and developer of ideas in the nontraditional tradition of Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, and Thomas Edison’s laboratories. X’s mission is to build and launch technologies to “improve the lives of millions, even billions of people.”

They’re specifically in the business of identifying and accelerating world-changing ideas. That means they reject plenty of good ideas because the change those ideas create would be too incremental for their mission. One of X’s slogans is “10x impact on the world’s most intractable problems, not just 10% improvement.”

X is an innovation hub but it’s not about any innovation at any cost or on any time horizon. X has a very specific charter: to take their best ideas from concept to commercial viability in a five-to-ten-year time horizon. It’s not enough that the idea is a world-changing solution, or even that the proposed solution is possible. They also have to know that the economics will work, so that it will become self-supporting and profitable.

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