You would imagine that the first time someone presented the idea of using an invisible beam to detect ships and airplanes, or a drug to reduce cholesterol, or to kill tumors by choking their blood supply, there would be wild jubilation welcoming such a world-shaking breakthrough.
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
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: St Martin's Press (26 March 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250225612
- ISBN-13: 978-1250225610
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2.3 x 23.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 399 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)