The “Captain Of Moonshots” At Google X On The Importance Of Authenticity In Innovation

How the Google X team fails fast, and shoots for the moon.


Astro Teller’s official title is “Captain of Moonshots” at Google X. The position sounds like a dream job an 11-year-old might make up, and his biggest tip for being productive stays true to that spirit.


The mad geniuses at Google X define moonshots–the big-thinking projects like Google Glass, self-driving cars, and hoverboards–as radical answers to real problems. According to Teller, taking these kinds of leaps of innovation requires a bravery that borders on absurdity.

Astro Teller

“With each of the projects that we’ve put forward, we have this moment of vulnerability, where we take our baby in this completely half-done state and say really authentically to the world, ‘What do you think?'” Teller says. “We want to do the right thing, and we’re scared, honestly, that people won’t understand or that they’ll push back against us.”

That means being open to failure. “Be authentic,” Teller says. “An enormous amount of time is wasted by people in their personal lives and their professional lives not being themselves.”

During a recent Fast Company visit to the highly secretive Google X lab, Teller and his team demonstrated their principle of fast failure to drive productivity on incredibly ambitious projects.

Watch the video above to get an inside peek at the Google X team and how they work.

About the author

Valerie Lapinski is a multimedia journalist, editor and producer. She has worked for TIME, The New York Times, WNYC radio, and KCAW-FM in Sitka, Alaska.