Astro Teller is the ‘Captain of Moonshots’ at X.

X is a company owned by Google. It’s projects are aim for “moonshot” breakthroughs that could have a major positive impact on society.

X emphasizes the importance of rapid prototyping, experimentation, and failure.

In Tackle the monkey first, Teller outlines their approach to project development.

Let’s say you’re trying to teach a monkey how to recite Shakespeare while on a pedestal. How should you allocate your time and money between training the monkey and building the

Because the pedestal is easy, and we know what to do, many would start with designing and building a perfect pedestal.

Astro reminds us “Don’t use up all your resources on the easy stuff

Annie Duke explores this principle in her newsletter

Monkeys and pedestals tells us to attack the hard thing first because if we can’t solve for that there is really no point in doing the rest of the work. In fact, in project presentations at X, you’ll see #MONKEYFIRST all over the decks as a constant reminder to figure out what the bottlenecks are and to solve for those before building a bunch of pedestals.

She notes that this is the opposite of the way many projects are managed. “Let’s tackle the low hanging fruit first.”

By adopting a #MONKEYFIRST approach, you can quickly identify when a project is unachievable, before wasting time and resources.

Seth Godin also emphasises the importance of doing the real work.

In Godin’s view, the “real work” is the work that truly matters in making a meaningful impact, and often involves taking risks, making difficult decisions, and pushing beyond your comfort zone. However, many people get sidetracked by details, distractions, or tasks that may be easier or more comfortable, but ultimately do not move them closer to their goals.

For example, you intent to launch a podcast.

Don’t start by seeking the ultimate microphone, taking a course in audio editing, making your logo look pixel perfect. You know you can do those things.

#MONKEYFIRST reminds us that the real work is to record one interview on a subject that would be of interest to a minimally viable audience.

Do you think a #MONKEYFIRST approach is useful? Have you seen any classic examples of #PEDESTALFIRST?

Let us know in the comments.

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