Here at the Wall Street Journal‘s WSJ.D conference, Astro Teller, the “captain of moonshots” at Alphabet’s X lab, says that if you judge his group by the impact of its works in progress—such as self-driving cars—you’re doing it all wrong. That’s because X’s mission is to get wild ideas up and running, and then “graduate” them by spinning them off into entities that can steer them through to commercial availability.
As an example, he gave a product I didn’t even know that X had a hand in: Google’s new Pixel phone, which has received excellent reviews for camera quality. Turns out that X had a low-profile group working on computational photography. When it became clear that it made more sense to pursue it as a smartphone technology than for a standalone camera, the team went to work on the Pixel phone—and their effort paid off, even though X didn’t get the glory.