Alphabet’s (formerly Google) X division works on the company’s most audacious moonshot projects. The projects have the potential for very large rewards but also carry very large risks and require large investments.
Due to the latter two characteristics, it’s important to have a clear view on what assumptions need to be tested and what problems need to be solved for each project to be successful. X teams therefore evaluate whether a project warrants the investment of further time and money at each stage of the problem. And since it’s cheaper to fail early than it is to fail late, they work on the hardest parts of the problem first. This way they don’t waste resources and give themselves pats on the back by solving the easy parts of the problem until they’re certain that the hard parts that are key for the project’s success can be solved.
Using this approach, the X team shelved projects in automated vertical farming and variable buoyancy cargo ships. The same approach led the team to continue working on self-driving cars, wind energy kites, and balloon-powered internet. Astro Teller from the X team writes about each of these projects in his recent Medium post.