Google became famous for refining the web search experience, but today the company is known for so much more than that — especially it’s brilliant “moonshot” projects.
A “moonshot” is the name Google gives to its big-picture products like contact lenses that can monitor your glucose levels, hot air balloons that can beam internet down from the sky, and cars that can drive themselves.
The sector of Google tasked with developing and executing these types of ideas is called Google X.
Astro Teller, the Google executive in charge of its X labs, shared in a recent interview with Fortune exactly how the company decides which moonshots are worth persuing.
According to Teller, the project must meet three specific criteria points:
- It has to solve a big problem.
- “There has to be some kind of radical proposed solution” to that problem. “It should be a science fiction-sounding product or service,” Teller told Fortune. In other words, the team needs to make sure the idea isn’t “treading the same ground that other people have tread before.”
- It has to be possible. Teller says there needs to be “some reason to believe that this isn’t just pie in the sky.” This could be a specific scientific or technological breakthrough that makes Google think its idea is possible, according to Teller. “It could be something that has worked in one domain but has never been transplanted to this domain,” he told Fortune.
The hard part about developing Google X ideas, however, is that it’s not always immediately clear whether or not a project meets all three of these prerequisites.
“So in some cases one of these is easy and the others are hard,” Teller told Fortune. “Sometimes we will think we have a bead on two or even three of these things, but after a while one of them will fall away.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.