If You Want to Change the World, Talk to the Right People

Peter Diamandis:  So, you’ve got an idea and you think it’s a great idea.  Ultimately, two things are important. Number one, that you’re not fooling yourself. So what I end up doing in this phase of designing an X Prize is really going out and bouncing the idea off of enough experts that I feel confident that I haven’t missed something.

Ultimately, you have to be careful though because if you’re trying to drive a radical change in the world, a lot of experts are going to tell you, it can’t be done or it’s impossible. You know,
I define sometimes an expert as someone who can tell you exactly how something can’t be done. When I was trying the build the Ansari X Prize, I went to the traditional aerospace players at Boeing and Lockheed or NASA and some of them said, “Listen, this is big boy
business. This is large corporations and governments. Small teams aren’t going to be able to build private spaceships and I had to be careful about really understanding what they were saying and saying,“Okay, that’s true for them. I’m working under a different paradigm.”

But other folks that we talked to, when we were looking at flying your suborbital flight, originally we had it at 100 miles altitude as the peak altitude and we did the re-entry thermal
characteristics of coming in from 100 miles and said, you know, it’s going to be really… coming in from that altitude the velocity coming in is very high, it’s going to be a lot of heat loading. So we lowered it from 100 miles to 100 kilometers.

So we used experts to help shape the idea. So we didn’t lose the concept of private space flight or suborbital flights, but by going from 100 miles to 62.5 miles, 100 kilometers, it made the prize achievable because the last thing you want to do is announce a prize or a bold idea and have no one get there. That does no one any good. So we had to… we used the expert feedback to develop a point of audacious, but achievable. And so shaping that was really important.

The other thing was, if you try to change the world and to solve a market failure, it’s really important to understand, what’s their root cause. Why does that market failure exist?  Why doesn’t the goal you want to achieve in the world exist right now? What’s keeping it from happening? And you have to attack those problems.

So with the Ansari X Prize as we peeled away the situation, the realization was that capital wasn’t flowing into the private space flight market. Why? Because there were no demonstrations; no one believed it was really possible. Another reason was that the regulations didn’t exist to allow for private space flight. And those were root causes, not having the regulations that allowed, not having great examples that demonstrated what young
private teams could do.

So when we built the rules, we made sure that when this prize was won that it would address those root cause problems and in so doing, would help launch this industry.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

if you’re trying to drive a radical change in the world, a lot of experts are going to tell you, it can’t be done or it’s impossible. You therefore need to talk to the right people, and ask the right series of questions.

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