Srikant Ramaswami|Feb 26, 2018

On a recent flight from New York to Los Angeles, I tuned in to CNN. With excitement and awe, I watched live as Elon Musk’s most powerful SpaceX rocket ever lifted off from Cape Canaveral to change aerospace history forever.

What was so remarkable about the launch of the most powerful rocket in U.S. history was the fact that the boosters would return to earth, landing on pads with stunning precision, to be reused at a later date. What was even more striking to me is that the cost of deploying this rocket was significantly cheaper than the one NASA has planned for the future.

My eyes filled with tears of emotion as I thought about how the maker of Tesla had crossed yet another milestone in the hallways of history, applying technical know-how, emotion, and practical wisdom to a remarkable feat.

The great Richard Branson once said that “dreaming is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. It champions aspiration, spurs innovation, leads to change, and propels the world forward.”

There’s weight in those words. Ipso facto, we can all agree that greatness lies in imagining a world of possibilities that don’t exist currently and disrupting the status quo with prophetic statements that challenge society to take on the most complex problems and solve them.

This is particularly true in healthcare, where bold, audacious goals are imperative to success in tackling the most stubborn challenges – eradicating disease, extending access, and managing costs. To examine where we are today, it is important to turn to history.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade.

In remarks that resonate as loudly today as they did more than 50 years ago, the President said:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Making a statement as bold and direct as this required courage and conviction. But it was also a call to action – one that could arguably fail. One where the stakes were high. And also one where focus, determination, and passion could drive outcomes that were only dreamed.

As history would show, President Kennedy’s goal was achieved on July 20, 1969, a mere seven years later, when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Module’s ladder and onto the Moon’s surface.

The reason that this example is important is because President Kennedy’s challenge inspired scientists and engineers to work together in unprecedented ways, as never before. Collaboration was the watchword and open innovation was born.

Today, this call for disruption, this emotional appeal to challenge our potential, has far reaching implications for innovation in healthcare.

The Cancer Moonshot mindset more recently spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden and the Obama administration is also bold, creative, and disruptive. And Howard Krein, MD, the chief medical officer of StartUp Health, as well as a head and neck cancer surgeon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the senior director of health policy and innovation at Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center recently wrote about this moonshot mindset and its implications for healthcare.

“The moonshot mindset embraces the idea that audacious goals are the best way to bring revolutionary changes to health. Over the past several decades, the term “moonshot” has been used broadly to describe an ambitious approach to tackling society’s most intractable challenges, starting with the work that led to the first moon landing in 1969 and now encompassing research on the world’s biggest health issues, such as ending cancer, curing infectious disease, and extending healthy life,” he stated.

Krein added that “Moonshot thinking has spawned powerful new initiatives in the past few years. Although these massive and multifaceted efforts may have different names and goals, they operate under the shared ethos that the most effective way to bring real change to medicine is to move forward together, arm in arm, in giant leaps rather than incremental steps.”

History will show if these bold initiatives, driven by a sense of urgency, passion, and emotion, will lead to healthcare innovation on a scale that is unprecedented. Failing to try is not an option. Patients and caregivers hope for miracle cures every day. They want physicians, payers, and providers to constantly look at ways to innovate with emotion so that we can leapfrog advances to ultimately cure some of the most debilitating diseases.

At rbb Communications, we applaud “moonshot thinking.” We believe that it is the very bold idea, the stake in the sand, the desire and ability to think big and execute flawlessly, that drives great outcomes. We believe in the power of Breakout brands that strive to be the best, heightening the emotional connection with customers to drive loyalty.

In a recent healthcare symposium, we highlighted this nexus of emotion and innovation, challenging ourselves to always think with passion and emotion as we innovate, so that we and our clients can always shoot for the moon. You can view the highlights from our symposium below.


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