Apr 21 2023

Tackle Your Monkeys First

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

X is a Google-owned innovative company. The company’s projects are often designed with the goal of achieving “moonshot” breakthroughs that could have a major positive impact on society, but also acknowledge that many ideas may not ultimately be successful.

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 the 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 have the Improvement Idea of running a nurse led pain clinic in your practice.

#MONKEYFIRST reminds us to first ensure we have an RN with the time and interest, and patients who are appropriate and would agree to attend.

Then we can build the pedestal – start collecting resources, develop a curriculum, design the brochure, and decide upon and prepare a room.

Do you think a #MONKEYFIRST approach is useful? Have you seen any classic examples of Pedestals first? Let us know in the comments.

What I Learnt On 21st April in other years

21st April 2011 Follow Up ThenFollow Up Then

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