- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: St Martin's Press (26 March 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250185963
- ISBN-13: 978-1250185969
- Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.2 x 24.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 590 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries Hardcover – 26 Mar 2019
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"A witty, invigorating exploration of human behaviour and discovery." --Nature
"An ambitious and entertaining effort to lay out some fundamental laws of success and uncover the truth about successful group behavior... Bahcall makes the whole idea sing by bringing in references from across business, history, cinema and science." --Financial Times
"This thorough, fascinating study will appeal to a broader audience than just business wonks." --Booklist
"A wonderful book that explores the beauty, quirkiness and complexity of ideas, Loonshots will both educate and entertain you. If you care about ideas -- especially new and out-of-the-box ones -- you need to read this book." --Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies
"Who knew that one idea could connect naval battles, chirping crickets, and the birth of modern science? If The Da Vinci Code and Freakonomics had a child together, it would be called Loonshots. This book is a must read for anyone in business, education, or public service." --Senator Bob Kerrey, Medal of Honor recipient, former Navy SEAL and president of The New School
"With riveting stories set in the most unexpected times and places, Loonshots shows how group dynamics and workplace politics conspire against the psychological safety people need in order to boldly share their wildest ideas. Bahcall's fresh ideas and practical solutions--an unusual combination of psychology and physics--should change the way any person or team sets out to change the world." --Amy C. Edmondson, author of The Fearless Organization and professor at Harvard Business School
"Loonshots is the book we desperately need now. Today's threats cannot be met by might alone. To defend our nation in an increasingly competitive world, we need to innovate faster and better than those who would do us harm. Bahcall offers a solution to the challenge of nurturing innovation without sacrificing core capabilities or operational edge. Brilliant, insightful, and immediately applicable--Loonshots is destined to become required reading for experienced and rising leaders everywhere." --Douglas Wickert, Colonel, US Air Force
"Some books challenge what you think--Loonshots will challenge how you think. Never before have we been given such a clear and compelling roadmap to questioning norms, embracing the impossible, and shooting for the stars. Loonshots is a must read for anyone passionate or crazy enough to take on today's biggest challenges." --Edward Sullivan, CEO of Velocity Group
"Safi Bahcall extends the principles of emergence to the behavior of groups, creating an entirely new way of thinking about why some succeed and others fail. Safi hits all the right notes: the rhythm is right, the humor is right, the scope is right ... everything is right. Loonshots should be required reading for anyone serious about changing the world for the better." --Robert Laughlin, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, author of A Different Universe
"Safi Bahcall proposes that phase-transition physics can illuminate human organizations. Companies that are "crystalline" may be efficiently run but don't innovate; those that are "liquid" produce floods of ideas but no discipline. The physics suggests, moreover, how companies can be disciplined and innovative at the same time. Anyone interested in a fresh approach to innovation--with lots of lively examples--should read this book." --Eric Maskin, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, professor at Harvard
"Loonshots is a brilliant and wonderfully entertaining book, an unstoppable read, full of surprises and rich with insight into how people create and nurture things that change the world. It's also an important book. Bahcall, a physicist and biotech entrepreneur, is unfolding the secrets behind successes everywhere." --Richard Preston, New York Times bestselling author of The Hot Zone and The Wild Trees
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Aaaand you would be wrong. As a rule, the folks who came up with such painfully obvious innovations as radar, statins and anti-angiogenesis drugs were rejected, and again, and again. For up to 32 years.
Loonshots are “widely dismissed ideas whose champions are often written off as crazy.” Through dozens of engaging stories told with insight and wry humor, Bahcall describes how loonshots (such as radar, the internet, and Pixar movies) come about, how to nurture them, how to champion them, and how to keep from inadvertently killing them.
A gifted storyteller, Bahcall populates the narrative with characters endlessly fascinating because of their pluck, stubbornness, luck, or sheer genius: Vannevar Bush, the creator of the Office of Science Research and Development which basically won WW2; Akira Endo, the Japanese chemist who screened 6000 fungi to discover statins only to have his work stolen; Judah Folkman, the saintly discoverer of angiogenesis; Juan Terry Trippe, the larger-than-life founder of PanAm; Charles Lindbergh; Edwin Land, the supergenius founder of Polaroid; and Steve Jobs, who continues to get a lot more credit for Apple’s products than he deserved.
In each of these instances, Bahcall goes deep, uncovering the complexities that belie simplistic origin stories and hero worship (Jobs and Newton are notably knocked down a few notches). Bahcall has done some serious sleuthing here. He also has a flair for super-clear explanations of complex scientific subjects.
One of the book's central theses is that loonshots have their genesis in company *structure* and not culture. He draws a parallel from the science of phase transitions. To generate loonshots, you want fluidity: smaller teams with mostly creative folks (“artists”). To generate franchises, or even just to bring the loonshots to market, you want solidity: bigger teams staffed with “soldiers” with well-defined roles. Leading to the Loonshot Rules:
1. Separate the phases: Separate your artists and soldiers.
2. Dynamic equilibrium: Love your artists and soldiers equally.
3. Critical mass: Have a loonshot group large enough to ignite.
In the latter part of the book, Bahcall presents a plausible quantitative model for the various forces that incline team members towards loonshot vs franchise behavior, and how to tweak those variables to get the kind of company you want.
I found this book enjoyable and enlightening enough to have read it twice already. If you are an entrepreneur, scientist, artist, drug developer, military officer, or just a rabid fan of ideas with some of your own you’d like to make real, you should find out about P-type (product) loonshots vs S-type (strategy) loonshots; the Bush-Vail rules; systems mindset vs outcome mindset for doing postmortems; and the dreaded Moses trap. Also, why *does* the world speak English and not Chinese, when the Chinese invented printing and gunpowder hundreds of years before the West? With the word “loonshot” likely poised to become part of the vernacular in innovative circles, this is the book that puts you ahead of the curve. Consider it the most fun required reading you’ll ever do.
-- Ali Binazir, M.D., M.Phil., host of "The Ideaverse", author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman's Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible, the highest-rated dating book on Amazon, and Should I Go to Medical School?: An Irreverent Guide to the Pros and Cons of a Career in Medicine
His answer is compelling and full of fascinating, entertaining stories about people who've dared to move into unknown territory. Bahcall creates vivid portraits of these people, and weaves their innovations into thrilling stores. It was astonishing to see an insight from physics applied to human endeavor in such an illuminating and convincing way. I wouldn't have thought that reading about business and physics could be this fun, funny - and moving.
The last chapter alone - Why the World Speaks English, in which Bahcall uses his model to explain why the scientific revolution happened in the west - is worth the price of admission. But you'll want to read the whole book.
That's not to say that the people in an organization don't matter, only that there are ways of organizing teams for success, and ways of organizing that will ensure even the best and brightest are bound to fail.
Anyone who has experienced the rigid bureaucracy that emerges as companies or teams reach a certain size will immediately grasp Bachall's simple but brilliant use of phase transitions (e.g., from water to ice) as a metaphor for the structural transformation over time of organizations. Even better, he offers solid, helpful advice on how to keep things "on the edge," not too rigid, but not too loose, either - maintaining the dynamic equilibrium required to function as a cohesive unit while still allowing creative sparks to grow into roaring, "loonshot" infernos.
You don't need to be a physicist to understand his examples, but by drawing on real world, physical rules Bachall deftly shows how organizations behave in real life. And I guarantee you'll soon find yourself looking at your own organization and recognizing False Fails, the Moses Trap, the importance of franchises in supporting new breakthrough exploration (and all the ways they can also block the loonshot that might become the next franchise), as well as P-Type and S-Type loonshots.
My office wall is lined on one side with books about how great companies got that way. On the other side are books detailing the mistakes companies made that doomed them to failure. The kicker? The books on both sides are all about the *same* companies! As the grew and thrived they also slowly became prisoners of sclerotic organizational structures that stopped them from being creative. Loonshots shows how organizations can maintain the "dynamic equilibrium" required for continual success and reinvention.
Which I guess means I need to start a new bookshelf somewhere in the middle...
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