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From Silicon Valley to the stars: How the new space race is disrupting leadership

A new struggle to reach the stars has emerged – and this time it’s between the billionaires of Silicon Valley.

From Silicon Valley to the stars: How the new space race is disrupting leadership

Five decades after the race to plant a flag on the moon, outer space is still an enticing, yet mostly distant, dream. But not for all of us.

Silicon Valley pioneers such as the billionaire founder of rocket designer and manufacturer SpaceX, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and aerospace development company Blue Origin, are reinvigorating the push to reach outer orbit.

This quest is not only changing the rules of the space race, it also promises to have lasting implications for business thinking and leadership the planet over.

From business-as-usual to business-as-future

The entrepreneurial players in this race are proving there’s no room for a business-as-usual mindset if your sights are set high.

For instance, a NASA study found it cost about $US440 million for SpaceX to develop the Falcon 9 rocket (for delivering cargo to the International Space Station) and estimated that NASA itself would have paid three times as much to arrive at the same design.

It’s this kind of disruptive innovation that is key to survival across many industries these days, says Jeffrey Tobias, managing director at innovation consultancy The Strategy Group.

“The interesting thing about mobility and technology is that it’s not only about what we know today, it’s really about what we don’t know for the future,” Tobias says. “Elon Musk is living not only in the today – he’s living in the future.”

Group chief executive and managing director of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, Don Meij, shares this vision for disruption. “You can’t say, ‘Well we’ve been successful, we’ve got a platform, it’s market leading, so we can stay here’,” Meij says. “It’s got to be disruptive. You’ve actually got to challenge yourself to take it to another place and it has to have the customer as the reason for taking that approach.”

From outside the box to no box

The new-age space racers are also proving there’s value for large companies in partnering with entrepreneurial and innovative thinkers.

This is perhaps most evident in Blue Origin and SpaceX’s pursuit of NASA’s oft-abandoned dream of a reusable launch system, which came to fruition when Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket was successfully reused four times over the past year.

According to Tobias, it’s innovators like these who will pave the way across many sectors in business. “We are potentially being disrupted by entrepreneurial organisations that are picking off little bits of our traditional business and saying, ‘You know what? What got you here won’t get you there – but we will get you there’,” he says.

So what does all this disruption mean for those of us who remain firmly planted on Earth? If you ask Tobias, it’s all about mobility, technology and the pace of change.

“Technology like the Internet of Things provides us an environment a bit like Elon Musk’s vision to reach Mars,” says Tobias. “It illustrates the difference between thinking outside the box and being in an environment where there is no box.”

In today’s fast-paced business environment, your people need to communicate with each other, partners and customers at a moment’s notice – ask your AE how Telstra can help make this a reality.

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