I volunteer with the RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Award) which is a youth leadership scheme that teaches leadership skills across the globe to sixteen-year-olds. These young adults are on the cusp of choosing their A-Levels and so they’re beginning to map out their career stages. RYLA’s goal is to encourage leadership of youth by youth and to publicly recognise young people who give back to their communities.

We’ve honed our training for sixteen-year-olds who have just finished their GCSE’ because at this age they’re moving onto the next stage of their life. Often these young people are trying to figure out where they want to go in life as well while also trying to find out who they want to be.

The RYLA  programme provides them with real-world experience because as well as helping the students to understand themselves better, it gives them relevant, valuable experience for their CVs.

Moonshot Thinking and the Youth of the Future

I’ve been a facilitator with RYLA for 12 years, and last year I invited LEAPS CEO Ross Thornley to come and talk about Moonshot Thinking. Moonshot Thinking is the idea that you can improve something by 10 times as much, rather than just pushing it to be 10% better. As a result of Ross’ speech, we’re looking at how we can make the leadership training programme at RYLA more innovative, more inventive and more relevant for the youth of today.

Simply put, Moonshot Thinking approaches innovation in a different way.

When you are aiming not just for a slight improvement but a significant one, your pattern of reasoning changes. Consequently, you begin to approach the problem from a radically different perspective.

Even something as small as beginning from the assumption that it is solvable changes the way your brain works, so it pushes you to think bigger. Well… needless to say that Ross’ speech was all anyone was talking about afterward!

Even the Moonshots video in isolation gives with inspiration because it fills you with the question of why can’t I just open my mind a little bit more? Where is the glass ceiling? What is stopping me from doing this?

It made me wonder: why can’t we think bigger in terms of what RYLA can offer to the young leaders that come here?

Therefore this year, I’m taking a new approach and ingraining Moonshot Thinking into RYLA’s learning programme.

The Youth of Today are the Leaders of the Future

These teenagers are the leaders of the future, so exposing them to this kind of inventive, creative, innovative thinking from such a young age means is great.  By the time they are leaders, they’ll probably be twelve steps ahead.

Because we’re almost always we’re told we can’t do something, it’s such a powerful message when you turn around and tell someone that they can.

The techniques that Ross has developed over the years help us to pose a question. They help us to present these teenagers with big problems, while also giving us the techniques to help them figure out a solution.

What I love about working with sixteen-year-olds is that they haven’t learnt yet what a “stupid question” is. That’s what’s so important. I want them to let their imagination run wild.

Moonshot Thinking and Thought Patterns

One of the challenges we run at our RYLA residential courses is “how far can you propel a raw egg without touching it?”

Students are tasked with using objects they can find (often from around the site). In the past, zip-lines have been constructed, trebuchets have been hammered together and someone even used a remote-controlled car.

I think Moonshot Thinking can take this challenge to the next level. Since it’s taking much more expansive approach to a problem, it’s going to open their minds to all of the different things that they can pioneer.

This is why I want to include Moonshot Thinking into the programme and encourage my students to stretch the limits of their imagination. To push past the constraints of time and money (or even grades) that they have had people pressing onto them throughout their academic career.

How Moonshot Thinking Might Send Eggs to Mars

A lot of the restrictions we have in place are because we’ve put them there ourselves. We’re so stuck in what’s accepted that we don’t stray from this conservative way of thinking and in the same way, we don’t reach for the things that might be deemed impossible, or unrealistic.

I want young leaders to go as big as they possibly can and not even consider what’s stopping them.

Who says that you can’t contact Elon Musk and ask to put an egg on his next ship to Mars? That’s the kind of Moonshot thinking I want these young adults to engage in. Because who says you can’t do that?

While Moonshot thinking can be quite bewildering to young minds (it’s not often you’re faced with a question that has no limit!) I think it’s important. That’s where Ross’ methodologies come into play, because they provide the tools with which you can answer these huge, ranging questions and give young leaders the means with which to tackle these issues.

With Moonshot Thinking, by the time these young people are the leaders of the future, they’re going to be absolutely incredible. They will be a force to be reckoned with.