Back in 1961, at the height of the Cold War and three years after the creation of NASA, President Kennedy gave his famous “Moonshot” speech.
“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 we intend to win, and the others, too.”
We know how it ends. 8 years later, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. American hearts swelled with pride, and we had one of the most powerful moments of the Twentieth Century.
But that’s not really the whole story.
In his speech, Kennedy failed to mention that the way he intended us to get to the moon was by inserting three astronauts in a capsule on top of one of the ICBMs they were hoping to develop. By developing the tech to get us to the moon, we’d be developing the same technology to quickly get nuclear warheads delivered to Russia and China, which was the main purpose of spending all that money.
A bit of a marketing sleight of hand, certainly. But it was a much easier sell to Congress than nuclear war, not to mention, a much more inspiring story to sell to the American people.
We thought of this as NASA recently announced they were launching their own free TV streaming service, to indirectly compete with giants like Netflix and Disney.
According to Jeff Seaton, the Chief Information Officer at the NASA HQ, “Our vision is to inspire humanity through a unified, world-class NASA web experience,” taking “critical first steps in making our agency’s information more accessible, discoverable, and secure.”
But why go to all the trouble? Isn’t NASA’s job to build space rockets and whatnot? Why on Earth do they want to be in the streaming business?
Simply because, just like in 1961, NASA realizes that they’re not primarily in the space business, they’re in the inspiration business. Space just happens to be their chosen fulcrum tool to achieve the latter.
Of course, what NASA has built over the last 65 years has been nothing short of stunning. But it’s only by having this culture of intentional inspiration baked into its DNA from the get-go (JFK’s Moon Shot being a good example) that they’ve been able to pull it off.
The business that an organization is in is ultimately decided by their culture, not the product per se. And inspiration plays a huge part in that.