Moonshot Thinking to Unleash Innovation: MSR Cambridge, Lecture Series


Dr Pablo Rodriguez – Telefonica Alpha


Innovation in most large companies these days is fairly incremental. There is nothing inherently wrong in this, as much of our progress as a society has resulted from such innovation. Over recent years, however, we are seeing a radical departure from incremental innovation. Instead, we look at organisations who intentionally set extremely ambitious innovation objectives, where incremental innovation cannot get the job done.


The focus of this talk is to discuss the ways in which organisations mobilise resources to go after bold objectives which can move the needle: Moonshots. These are not incremental innovation activities, but instead multi-year missions that mobilise extensive scientific and technological resources to expand the horizons for both organizations and societies, and transform both in the process.


From the original IBM 360 mainframe computer, NASA, DARPA, Google X, or Telefonica´s skunkworks facility — Alpha, more and more organisations are trying to inductively develop a coherent approach to creating and executing organisational moonshots.


Doing so requires orchestrating diverse teams of data scientists, developers, programmers, technologists, and business strategists, to work together on audacious projects with the right culture and purpose. Moonshots will affect hundreds of millions of people, create a positive societal impact, and have the potential to grow into billion Euro businesses. Moonshot efforts at Alpha include areas of mental health, learning tutors, AI economies, or distributed energy, some of which will be discussed during the talk.


Pablo Rodriguez (@pabloryr) is the Founding CEO of Alpha, Telefonica’s long term innovation unit. Prior to Alpha, Pablo was Telefonica´s corporate VP for research and innovation, leading the company’s global research efforts in network infrastructure and Big Data. He has worked in several Silicon Valley startups and corporations including Inktomi, Microsoft Research and Bell-Labs. His current interests are privacy, personal data, and Internet economics. He has co-founded the Data Transparency Lab, an NGO to drive data privacy and transparency. He is on the advisory board of Akamai and EPFL. He received his Ph.D. from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He is an IEEE Fellow and ACM Fellow for content distribution and decentralised systems.