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Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries

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“This book has everything: new ideas, bold insights, entertaining history and convincing analysis. Not to be missed by anyone who wants to understand how ideas change the world.” Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

What do James Bond and Lipitor have in common? What can we learn about human nature and world history from a glass of water?

In Loonshots, physicist and entrepreneur Safi Bahcall reveals a surprising new way of thinking about the mysteries of group behavior that challenges everything we thought we knew about nurturing radical breakthroughs.

Drawing on the science of phase transitions, Bahcall shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing wild new ideas to rigidly rejecting them, just as flowing water will suddenly change into brittle ice. Mountains of print have been written about culture. Loonshots identifies the small shifts in structure that control this transition, the same way that temperature controls the change from water to ice.

Using examples that range from the spread of fires in forests to the hunt for terrorists online, and stories of thieves and geniuses and kings, Bahcall shows how this new kind of science helps us understand the behavior of companies and the fate of empires. Loonshots distills these insights into lessons for creatives, entrepreneurs, and visionaries everywhere.

Over the past decade, researchers have been applying the tools and techniques of phase transitions to understand how birds flock, fish swim, brains work, people vote, criminals behave, ideas spread, diseases erupt, and ecosystems collapse. If twentieth-century science was shaped by the search for fundamental laws, like quantum mechanics and gravity, the twenty-first will be shaped by this new kind of science. Loonshots is the first to apply these tools to help all of us unlock our potential to create and nurture the crazy ideas that change the world.

368 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 19, 2019

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About the author

Safi Bahcall

3 books90 followers
Safi R. Bahcall is an American physicist, technologist, business executive, and author.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 666 reviews
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
May 5, 2019
I guess this is the new "disruption" book (even though he articulates the differences quite convincingly). Bahcall posits a theory of loonshots using a few emblamatic examples (actually the same ones everyone uses). This is sort of my fundamental problem with these sorts of books--they cherrypick data and then try to come up with grand theories based on a few successes. It's not super rigorous or scientific. This one gets extra points though because there are a lot of interesting tangents and fun stories that I hadn't heard before.
Profile Image for Daniele.
37 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2021
I’ll be controversial and go against the reviews written by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Daniel Kahneman, two authors whom I respect tremendously, who extol Safi Bahcall’s Loonshots on the front cover of the book.

While I did learn some interesting stories regarding the development of drugs, companies, inventions and other innovations, this book felt like it was everywhere and nowhere. It felt to me like the book lacked a strong focus, and was more of a loose collection of random anecdotes that the author argues are all loonshots.

Bahcall makes massively sweeping claims about how Pan Am's jets, Polaroid's pictures and films, IKEA's do-it-yourself kits and Europe’s scientific advances over the Far East were all loonshots. He dedicates a few pages to explaining why the world speaks English and not Chinese: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Einstein were supported in their quest for loonshots. That's his incredibly naïve and simplistic explanation. What a let down...

I was tremendously let down by this book. Especially after reading some reviews about it and Siddhartha Mukherjee’s comment on the front cover, I had far greater expectations.

As some people mentioned in the comments, there's a total lack of scientific proof or logical rigor in Bahcall's thoughts. Two stars because there were some interesting stories, but overall I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,372 reviews1,420 followers
July 13, 2019
"New frontiers of the mind are before us, and if they are pioneered with the same vision, boldness, and drive with which we have waged this war we can create fuller and more fruitful employment and a fuller and more fruitful life." — Franklin Delano Roosevelt pg 257

Safi Bahcall has applied a physics-based approach to understanding innovations and creativity in group settings. Through the careful study of a bunch of historical examples, he has discovered ways leaders can structure their businesses to best encourage the growth of "loonshots."

The author has defined a "loonshot" as "a neglected project, widely dismissed, its champion written off as unhinged." It is through these, Bahcall believes, that world-changing ideas are produced that can be applied from arenas as diverse as business to war.

"The twisted paths leading to great discoveries are the rule rather than the exception. And so are their revisionist histories: victors don't just write history; they rewrite history." pg 56

He suggests these breakthroughs are generally created by large groups of people, rather than solitary geniuses. And he thinks that "applying the science of phase transitions to the behavior of teams, companies, or any group with a mission provides practical rules for nurturing loonshots faster and better." pg 2

For example: By examining Theodore Vail and the way he structured AT&T's "fundamental research" department to Vannevar Bush's non-military leadership for the Office for Scientific Research and Development for the military, Bahcall has come to some actionable conclusions.

He believes that, in a business, you need to separate the creative-types in the innovation departments from what he called the "soldiers" or people who run the rest of the business. Both are absolutely imperative to the success of the business, but if the two are working too closely together, "loonshots" can be strangled in their infancy.

The same risk of failure is faced by leaders who try to micromanage "loonshots". Trust your people to do what they do best, whether that's development or running the business, so that you don't drive a business into the ground because you're too attached to your own pet project.

Bahcall reminds us that structure is important but culture is as well. He makes a biological comparison to drive the point home: "Both genes and lifestyle matter. And so with teams and groups: both structure and culture matter. The aim of this book is not to replace the idea that certain patterns of behavior are helpful (celebrating victories, for example) and others are less so (screaming), but to complement it." pg 227

I can't say I completely understand what a "phase transition" is but Bahcall's storytelling manner of imparting information is easy to understand. His writing is reminiscent, in some ways, of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable but with more emphasis on structure and culture instead of probability.

Readers who enjoyed one book, may like the other. Recommended for readers seeking more information about how to help businesses succeed, innovate and thrive.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,545 reviews309 followers
August 11, 2019
A cool and very readable account of technical history, innovation, and project management. I liked the author’s breezy, conversational style. He opens with Vannevar Bush just before WW2, starting a predecessor to DARPA, which wasn’t a big favorite of the prewar US military. But he had FDR’s support (via Harry Hopkins). The first significant deployment was microwave radar — the British had longwave radar since the 1930s, and that was a big help in winning the Battle of Britain. But microwaves had enough sensitivity and definition to spot submarine periscopes, and that was enough to win the Battle of the Atlantic for the Allies. And just in time, as Britain was very low on fuel and food in 1943, with no other effective U-boat defense. The Allies sank 41 U-boats in May 1943, more than in any prior full *year* of the war, and the Germans withdrew their Wolfpacks from the Atlantic.

Next, statins, the cholesterol-reducing drugs that have drastically reduced heart attacks since they went into widespread use. The discoverer was Akiro Endo, a Japanese medical researcher, who found the compound in a blue-green mold, Penicillium citrinum, a relative of the famous Penicillin mold. The path to FDA approval was not straightforward. It took 26 years and two companies — Dr. Endo’s company gave up — and Merck got FDA approval for Mevacor in 1987. The statins have been remarkably successful, both medically and financially. Mevacor and other Merck statins have sold over $90 billion, and all statins over $300 billion. Yet this was a very fragile discovery, and the original discoverer earned little, aside from scientific recognition. This is a not-atypical path for a new drug discovery.

Many more examples of success and failure follow. Noteworthy (and well known) were Juan Trippe’s Pan American bankruptcy, and Edwin Land’s Polaroid collapse. But I’d never heard of Dr. Land’s involvement in the U-2 spy-plane project, and deeper involvement with the US spy-satellite program. Dr. Land was an early advocate for digital satellite photography, and the first digital spy satellite was launched in 1976. Yet his Polaroid Corp. was still trapped by the collapse of film photography, and Land left the business in 1981. There’s a rueful quote from him on the danger of hubris. Polaroid went bankrupt in 2001.

I have more notes, but this is enough, I think. Great stuff for the first 2/3, then it sags a bit. But don’t miss if you are at all interested in the history of technology and innovation. Something like half of the trillions of dollars in US GDP growth since WW2 came from technology improvements, so it's a topic of considerable interest. 4.4 stars.
Profile Image for Mike.
59 reviews
October 16, 2020
Enjoyed the anecdotes and stories, but some felt a bit contrived or stretched to fit the described framework
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 3 books229 followers
February 25, 2019
Loonshots is a thought-provoking blend of history, physics, and business which seeks to explain group decision-making about "loonshots". I am a social scientist so the idea of thinking about group behavior through the lens of phase transitions (think ice to water or water to ice) was fascinating to me. The real-world examples ranging from WWII to cancer research were interesting and I found the author's personal stories most compelling of all.
Profile Image for Ali.
Author 7 books197 followers
March 19, 2019
You would imagine that the first time someone presented the idea of using a beam to detect ships and airplanes, or a drug to reduce cholesterol, or a drug to kill tumors by choking their blood supply, there would be wild jubilation welcoming such a world-shaking breakthrough.
Aaaand you would be wrong. The folks who came up with such well-duh-obviously useful innovations as radar, statins and anti-angiogenesis drugs were rejected, and again, and again, for between 12 and 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 through 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 teams that can do the job.

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" podcast, 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
January 10, 2021
There exists a term well known to physicists that expounds on the possibility of coexistence between two phases. It occurs when a comparative behavior of a set of particles is balanced out by the behavior of a separate set of particles, thus allowing both to coexist in harmony. Bahcall and the sciences define this as "dynamic equilibrium". The essence of dynamic equilibrium is used throughout the book as a means to get the reader to grasp the scientific concepts to then be able to comprehend the message when delivered and applied to the behavior of any group.
The book is about understanding why some companies nurture and bring forth ideas that change the world, while the ideas of others die in organizations: To be innovative and successful you forcibly NEED two teams - one to focus on what has traditionally held true - another to explore uncharted territories. And both must coexist (dynamic equilibrium) with constant communication. This is what prevents great ideas from being passed over.
I found this book to have been informative, enjoyable, and eye-opening (plus the storytelling's great)!
Profile Image for Venky.
936 reviews337 followers
December 27, 2019
One might be forgiven for nursing a genuine assumption that the most famous “Bush” surname belongs to one of two men, both of whom happened to be the Presidents of the United States of America at different intervals. Safi Bahcall, a second-generation physicist (the son of two astrophysicists) and a biotech entrepreneur might also have harboured a similar notion until the day when the Chairman of a project group constituting the then-President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology mulled about the goal of the group being to “write the next generation of the Vannevar Bush report.”

Piqued by curiosity, Bahcall proceeded to look up the storied life and achievements of the former engineer and inventor who was tasked with the Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II. Most importantly, Bush laid the edifice for US’ whirlwind success in Science and Technology. The greatest good to have come out of Mr. Bahcall’s inquisitiveness to learn about Vannevar Bush is undoubtedly his wonderful book, “Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries.”

So what exactly is a “loonshot?”. Mr. Bahcall says, a loonshot represents “a neglected project, widely dismissed, its champion written off as unhinged.” The most significant and influential breakthroughs, are often, the results of loonshots, where the ultimate outcome’ pioneers are initially dismissed, written off and laughed away as being loony. Richard Miller, an oncologist was a CEO in a struggling biotech company. Miller, who also served as a part-time physician at Stanford University pioneered a new drug that promised a radical line of treatment for cancer afflicted patients. Not only was his drug scoffed at, it also led to Miller losing a boardroom battle and resigning as CEO. However, continued clinical trials resulted in not merely encouraging, but mind boggling results. Patients administered with Ibrutinib, - Miller’s drug – showed a nearly ten times higher response rate. FDA approval followed shortly before Miller’s company, Pharmacyclics was acquired by a pharmaceutical company for a whopping sum of $21 billion! A classic example of Mr. Bahcall’s Loonshot.

Akira Endo, a scientist from the food-processing division at the Japanese conglomerate Sankyo, faced an experience similar to that undergone by Miller, in his quest to finding a solution to treat cholesterol. As Mr. Bahcall asserts, a Loonshot usually has to survive a few “Deaths” before announcing itself to the world. From screening fungi in discovering the mold Penicillium citrinum to experimenting with chicken, Endo’s drug had to survive Three Deaths. Failures and rejections later statins changed both the face of medicine and the fate of millions of patients. Cumulative statin sales of the pharmaceutical major Merck exceeded $90 billion while sales from all statins have exceeded $300 billion. In 2008, Endo was the recipient of a delayed recognition of his contribution to the medical world, courtesy the impressive Lasker-De Bakey prize.

At the core of Mr. Bahcall’s Loonshots lies the analogy of phase transitions. The behavior of water undergoes a dramatic shift at the critical point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A glass of water into which one could lazily swirls one’s fingers goes absolutely rigid and freezes over at the point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. What causes such a sudden change. More so when the molecules inside are exactly the same? This behavior in physics is popularly known as phase transition. This analogy according to Mr. Bahcall can be fruitfully employed to analyse group behaviours and their attendant changes. In other words, “there is something about structure that causes molecules to suddenly change behavior and that has nothing to do with the top or culture. It’s what elements of structure transform the behavior of teams and companies. structure can drive culture! There is a famous saying in business that culture eats strategy for breakfast and the theme here is that structure eats culture for lunch. Here’s an example. Let’s say you took 50 people and asked each one of them individually, are you excited about this early project? They’re all individually excited. You organize them into a group and then they collectively reject that idea. Why?

According to Mr. Bahcall, a good example of structure driving culture is that of the multinational enterprise Nokia. Before becoming the globe’s leading smartphone company, Nokia dabbled in what looked like a haphazard menagerie of randomly selected items – rubber boots, and toilet paper included. This pottered experiment underwent a phenomenal transformation resulting in Nokia swamping the market for smart phones. In the early 2000s, a team within the company came up with an idea of a large phone, with unique touchscreens and an inbuilt camera. The head honchos however put paid to the idea, until a few years later a startled bunch of Nokia engineers watched Steve Jobs unveil what seemed to be their own prototype – with a mixture of awe and trepidation. The rest as the cliché goes is history. As Nokia grew and expanded, its structure changed and it crossed that point where it became more about people’s individual incentives and politics. The moment that transition was crossed, it was a mere inevitability that Nokia was going to become an institution that was rigid.

For managing these phase transitions, Mr. Bahcall provides the following measures:

• Separate the phases:

Create separate groups for inventors and operators: those who may invent the next transistor
vs those who answer the phone. Wide management spans, loose controls, and flexible metrics
work best for loonshot groups. Narrow management spans, tight controls, and rigid metrics
work best for franchise groups. S-type loonshots are small changes in strategy no one thinks
will amount to much, whereas P-type loonshots are technologies no one thinks will work.”

• Create Dynamic equilibrium:

Innovative leaders with some successes tend to appoint themselves loonshot judge and jury.
Instead create a natural process for projects to transfer from the loonshot nursery to the field
and for valuable feedback and market intelligence to cycle back from the field to the nursery.

• Spread a system mindset:

Keep asking why, keep asking how decision making processes can be improved and identify
teams with outcome mindset and help them adopt a system mindset.

Mr. Bahcall also warns us to be wary of what he terms the “Moses Trap.” One place where the working of the Moses Trap is very apparent is Silicon Valley. In Mr. Bahcall’s own words, “the leader is so enamoured with new ideas. You need two conditions. Number one is an all-powerful leader where the decisions really get made from the top of the mountain. Two, you have someone who becomes infatuated with the crazy ideas and always wants to have the next one. You always hear that something is the holy loonshot that will save the company.”

PanAm fell squarely into the Moses Trap. PanAm was soaring high on proud wings (literally). Boasting a talented leader who identified new technologies that allowed him to build bigger, faster, better planes, he kept turning that cycle and that worked for quite a while until it didn’t. “He had all these competitors and he was building bigger faster planes, but some of them were working on small changes in strategy like frequent flyer miles, things like yield management with big data, how to arrange seats. Things that sound kind of boring but actually make a big difference, and when airline deregulation hit [creating a free market for the airline industry], he had big, fast planes but no competitors. His competitors didn’t have as high-quality planes, but they had small changes in strategy that allowed them to run a much more economical business. They survived and PanAm didn’t.”

PanAm, however was not the only company to find itself swallowed by the Moses Trap. Edwin Land’s Polaroid, could have become the host, emcee and showstopper of the world’s digital revolution. Land, in fact was at the forefront of the digital technology, when in 1971, as part of a secret panel advising the US president, he advocated digital photography, which the US eventually adopted for its spy satellites. But the brilliantly talented Land was myopic to the promise of digital cameras for commercial use. He wagered all his money instead on a high-resolution, instant-print movie technology called Polavision, launched in 1977. It was a commercial flop. Later, Land invited a guest to visit a warehouse full of unsold Polavision cameras. “I wanted you to see what hubris looks like,” he said.

“Loonshots” teems with a plethora of interesting, illuminating and insightful examples similar to the ones mentioned in this review. It also provides a platform to nurture Loonshot thinking and institutionalization of the same as an organizational habit.
Profile Image for Ryan.
975 reviews
August 5, 2020
Safi Bahcall's Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries is glossy non-fiction about loonshots, which refers to a "neglected project, widely dismissed, its champion written off as unhinged." Given that the point of the book is to create loonshot nurseries, I view this definition as self-defeating.

I basically understand loonshots as big swings whose benefit is counter intuitive but which pay off in the long run. Loonshots can be products or technologies (P-Type) or they can be strategies or business models (S-Type), and businesses that excel at products can be overtaken by rivals with slick strategies. Loonshots can be distinguished from moonshots, which are ambitious and expensive goals as well as from disruption. (I suppose, however, that loonshots can be disruptive even if disruption is not by definition a loonshot.) Loonshots explain everything from Steve Jobs' eventual success to the Allied victories in World War II to the rise of science in the West even though the Chinese discovered (and often discarded) all of those ideas centuries earlier.

Bahcall calls on organizations to create loonshot nurseries. To that end, he advises companies to focus not on culture but rather on structure. Give "artists" in the workforce space apart from "soldiers," who will quash ideas, but also create and nurture communication between these two groups so that the loonshots can actually be put into effect. The leader's role is mostly monitoring organizational structure so that loonshots can survive closed minded skeptics and reach a critical mass for transformative takeoff.

How should these ideas be evaluated? The idea of a loonshot is interesting and innovation is important. And yet, too much of the argument amounts to "don't be a square." In other words, 1) loonshots are cool! and 2) the Axis powers lost the war due to a failure to nurture loonshots, and you don't want to be like them! Well, I can think of other reasons to not be like the Axis powers... But the Axis powers actually seem to have innovated a lot of loonshots in Bahcall's storytelling. Kodak, IBM, and other companies that waned may not have been able to nurture every successful loonshot, but I'm not sure it's their company structure that explains their decline so much as the reality that loonshots are harder to nurture and evaluate than Bahcall seems willing to admit. The Spurs will miss the playoffs and Apple will lose market share. Finally, I'm not sure we have enough data to take Bahcall's book as much more than a rough framework for thinking about innovation.

(I am also skeptical of books that read like a sales pitch for public speaking gigs.)

But if you don't have anything else to read and enjoy reading Gladwell, why not read this? Putting aside the now cliche analysis of Steve Jobs' career, the history Vannevar Bush in World War II was engaging and Bahcall does have a knack for digging up nifty details--or at least ones that were new to me. There was once a time, for example, in which Newton was so popular that a book entitled "Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy Explain'd For the Use of the Ladies" was not only published but was also translated into English from the Italian. We stand on the shoulders of giants and benefit from many loonshots, but has the world really gotten better if we no longer publish books with such titles?
Profile Image for Daniel.
612 reviews82 followers
May 6, 2019
1. New ideas are fragile and require tremendous amount of protection all the way from the top.
2. World War 2: The German U-boats were sinking Allies ships. Radar saved the day, letting pilots find them in all weather. However the military did not like Radar, at least in its original form. Vannevar Bush got the support of President Roosevelt and Radar helped killed U-boat and made allied bombs 7 times more potent by exploding around the wanted German targets.
3. Juan Tripp founded Pan Am, made flying glamorous and invented the jet plane almost single handedly. Later Pan Am would however be killed by deregulation.
4. Edward Land founded Polaroid, polarising lenses and prints, 3D movies, and had to thriving business. He was first to develop digital photography technology for military satellites. But he did not bring it to the masses, because his printed photography and film part of the business was earning him lots of money. Then Sony and Canon took over.
5. Mevastatin was discovered by Akira Endo and developed by Sankyo, but that stopped after a report in dogs found it might cause cancer. Merck resurrected the research and came up with simvastatin. Sankyo missed a multi-billion dollar drug.
6. The phenomenon of emergence states that many is different from few, the interaction changes behaviour, such as phase change of water and ice. To promote loonshots by artists, which can fail many times before eventually succeeding, we also need the soldiers who continue the franchise to make dependable money.
7. Joseph Needham learnt Chinese from his Chinese mistress and published monumental work about Chinese science and technology advances. The industrial revolution did not happen in China because one emperor can ban all astronomy works of the whole country; Tycho Brache was exiled by the Danish king but built his observatory with Kepler in Prague.
8. Ikea started as a mail order company that happens to sell furniture; banned from trade fair from competitors, he opened show rooms himself; banned from employing designers, he employed his own (making Poäng chairs for example); banned from using Swedish wood, he went to Poland and sourced for good quality wood at half price and passed on the savings. Too many customers and he allowed them to shop from the warehouse.
9. Loonshots are different from disruptions. Bahcall decides them into Strategy S type and Product P type loonshots. Both can change industries, sometimes overnight.

A solid 5 star book!
Profile Image for Makmild.
439 reviews71 followers
October 19, 2021
เป็นเล่มที่รวมศาสตร์การ manage และ ฟิสิกส์ เอาไว้ด้วยกันได้อย่างน่าประทับใจ อ่านง่าย (แม้เล่มจะหนา) และสนุก

มีหลายเรื่องที่เป็นคำถามมาอย่างยาวนาน เช่น ทำไมบริษัทยักษ์ใหญ่ถึงไม่มีอินโนเวชัน แล��วทำไมบริษัทเล็กๆ มี แล้วบริษัทใหญ่ที่มีอินโนเวชั่นทำได้ไง คำตอบดาษดื่นอย่าง "วัฒนธรรมองค์กร" อาจจะไม่คำตอบเดียวที่เพียงพอ แต่ยังเป็นเรื่องของ "โครงสร้างระบบ" ที่มีการเปลี่ยนเฟสอีกด้วย

ในหนังสือยกตัวอย่างเยอะแยะให้เราเข้าใจได้อย่างง่ายๆ ที่ชอบกว่าหนังสือ management ทั่วไปคือมีเรื่องฟิสิกส์เข้ามาเกี่ยวข้องนี่แหละ (จริงๆ ก็แค่ช่วงนี้ชอบอ่านฟิสิกส์) เลยทำให้หนังสือสนุกมากขึ้น แต่ในส่วนของการนำไปปฏิบัติจริง คิดว่าเล่มนี้อาจจะสู้เล่มอื่นๆ ไม่ได้ เพราะเป็นเรื่องของคอนเซ็ปต์ซะเยอะ ส่วนในรายละเอียดเรื่องการจัดการคนและทักษะแบบบุชยังเป็นส่วนที่ต้องไปฝึกเอาเอง (หรือถ้าเป็นบริษัทก็ไปตามหาเอาเอง)
Profile Image for Howard.
Author 17 books290 followers
April 17, 2019
a dynamite book. brilliantly written. good ideas. safi bahcall is a great story teller, and these tales are well worth telling.
Profile Image for Veronica.
101 reviews66 followers
November 27, 2020
"Hemingway wrote that 'the dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.' He called it his Theory of Omission. The power of beautiful prose comes from what you leave out. In science, it's the same. The power of a beautiful model comes from what you choose to omit."

"We want to design our teams, companies, and nations to nurture loonshots—in a way that maintains the delicate balance with our franchises—so that we avoid ending up like the Qianlong emperor. Those who dismissed those 'strange or ingenious objects,' the same strange and ingenious objects that returned in the hands of his adversaries, years later, and doomed his empire."
Profile Image for Nikhil Saha.
48 reviews
May 1, 2021
While this was my first audiobook, my submission is this book should be read, NOT listened to. It demands your undivided attention.

Loonshots are ideas that may seem crazy in status quo- but if nurtured well, could lead to big discoveries. But how do you build the right environment/structure/system that nurtures and not dismisses loonshots- that is what this book is about - accompanied with some brilliant examples!

The book focuses on managing the fine balance between existing franchises and loonshot nurseries, talks about optimal organisation structures and the right incentive strategies, and the right form of leadership to nurture these ideas.

If you're fond of theories around innovation, disruption, organisation structuring, growth etc. - this will be a fun read.
Profile Image for Lisa.
114 reviews50 followers
February 4, 2023
A fascinating read. The author lays out the requirements for nurturing radical ideas, or loonshots, within an organization in an easily understandable way. The examples chosen to highlight companies that have achieved loonshots and/or fell prey to the pitfalls were really compelling. A number of the anecdotes were new to me and I feel they haven’t been used repeatedly in other business books I’ve read (with the exception of Steve Jobs’ success at Apple). I will most likely not be pursuing any loonshots in my line of work but I came away with some helpful ideas regarding structure and communication that I could implement on my team to encourage a bit more innovation.

Next Big Idea Club Reading Selection - April 2019
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
670 reviews383 followers
April 30, 2020
Interesting ... but, as can be expected by the title, hard to make it feel like a cohesive whole rather than a bunch of super random examples.

Reminded me of several of Malcolm Gladwell's books—he also has the same issue of lacking cohesiveness, although I'd say I enjoy his books more.

Not bad, not great. Solid middle of the road.
Profile Image for Христо Блажев.
2,182 reviews1,424 followers
August 29, 2021
Лунатизми движат света напред: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/l...

Какви истории може да прочетете? На първо място – за Ванивар Буш, описан като “генерал на тайна армия учени, който е посрещан едва ли не със страхопочитание във Вашингтон”, великолепен визионер и организатор, който помага на САЩ да наваксат технологичното си изоставане и дори да станат световни лидери, като пътем подпомага победата на съюзниците във Втората световна война с изобретения като микровълновия радар и радионавигацията, които печелят например битката за Атлантика, а сетне и като подпомага проучванията за атомната бомба: “Буш съставя една агресивна изследователска програма, получава подкрепа от военните и политическите лидери, след което предава програмата на военните под името Проект “Манхатън“.

ИК "Хермес"
Profile Image for Rick Wilson.
614 reviews220 followers
February 5, 2023
It’s a collection of really entertaining aphorisms about creativity. I don’t really believe them. I think this book misses a fair number of real world practicalities that should be applied to the situations.

Profile Image for Elese Roger.
58 reviews1 follower
October 16, 2021
Excellent stories and examples, although some get deep into the scientific explanation, which other than demonstrating the author's acumen - doesn't add value to his point. That aside - he has done his research and I did learn a few things (which is always a positive measure of a book). I particularly thought the afterword's discussion on disruption vs loonshot to be intriguing...
Profile Image for Ben Gigone.
61 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2020
Some interesting concepts. Unique perspective tying business, science, and history together. Nice break from the traditional entrepreneurship books!
Profile Image for 3thn.
138 reviews23 followers
May 19, 2019
Was skeptical with the bombastic title at first, but this book shines as it recounts many notable inventions across industries and the multiple failures that preceded their eventual success.
Profile Image for Dan Connors.
315 reviews42 followers
June 30, 2019
A very fascinating read. The opening story about the invention of radar and how it won World War 2, one which I had not heard before, was worth the read alone.
The author goes into detail about how great advances in technology, art or technology are made and how we can nurture them better. The advice is:

1- Separate the creators from the franchise and let them have some freedom. Discourage politics and encourage collaboration.
2- Create dynamic equilibrium between artists and soldiers so that communication is free and both sides feel valued.
3- Create a system mindset that encourages improvements instead of an outcome mindset. Aka growth mindset.

He closes the book with a great question that has relevance today. Why, if China and Islam were the most advanced in technology and culture in the middle ages, did they get passed by so totally by the Europeans and especially the English in the 18th and 19th centuries?

His answer- China got lazy and turned inward- creating big franchise projects like the Great Wall while ignoring loonshots that would bring the next big thing. The West, on the other hand, embraced the scientific method and found new ways to conquer nature, eventually dominating world politics and economies.

Pertinent today because many are turning away from science, embracing the familiar franchises, and looking to build walls instead of new technologies and strategies that will make things better.

There are plenty of well-researched, if cherry-picked stories from science and business and this book deserves the accolades that it is receiving.
Profile Image for Arathi Mohan.
138 reviews106 followers
December 28, 2020
This book explores the structure of teams that enables them to innovate in crazy ways. The author points out that there is a lot of literature regarding the links between culture and innovation and not enough has been said about the structure of such teams. Starting off with the simple yet powerful example of water-ice and phase transitions, the book moves through several examples in history where teams that started out small became titans of their respective industries - some became wrapped up in their successes and failed to find the perfect recipe for innovation (and thus were unable to withstand the onslaught of smaller, nimble 'start-ups'); however, there were a few giants who lost their plot but managed to recover when they were able to practise the principles of phase separation and dynamic equilibrium (among others). Several industry cases are described in this book- Polaroid, Pan Am, Apple, Bell Labs, the US Department of Defense, and so on.
This book makes for very interesting reading for those who are curious to know more about teamwork and innovation.
Profile Image for Anthony.
18 reviews
June 11, 2019
What I love about Loonshots is how Bachall makes success seem more tangible. He doesn’t settle for a fluffy concept like culture where the amount of good culture isn’t actually measurable. He forms the magic number and theorizes ways to increase it.

What I didn’t like was when he introduced his formula without showing tangible examples of companies that have increased it and the results in numbers that followed. He merely presents an example of a company that has exhibit a good or bad quality and leaves it at that.

Bahcall uses prime historical examples of failures like Nokia, Next Computer, and even ancient empires to build a case of entities that have failed to keep up with innovation. He shares his list of loonshot qualities where these failed entities lacked, but he completely forgets to show us which successful entities exhibit them all.
10 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2020
It's a Gladwell type of book. He uses 20 to 30 pages of example in history of many type of loonshots without making any cohesion or explaining much.

It feels like a history book about groundbreaking invention like jets, polaroid etc.
38 reviews
January 31, 2021
There were a few interesting anecdotes about Polaroid, PanAm and drugs that were interesting to learn about. Yet, the overall message of the book could have been explained much more concisely.

If you want to encourage innovation in your company or your own life, first, don’t underestimate how important soft rewards are. Real, game-changing innovation isn't a light switch that is turned on and everyone immediately sees the impact. It will take a lot of time and work to truly create something novel and long-lasting. So, make sure your incentive structure is set up to incentivize continuous innovation through soft rewards (not just a pay bump or bonus) and limit timelines that are often based on nothing substantial.

As you set up those practices or build your loonshot itself, make sure you take into account all the perverse incentives you may create. It will be hard to limit all of them, but if you take a few minutes and are thoughtful about it, that will go a long way.

He had an interesting point that the key to winning a Nobel prize is knowing what to ignore. When you are onto something big, there is going to be a lot of extra stuff (people, tasks, etc.) that need to be ignored if you are going to stay on track.
Profile Image for Dakshata.
51 reviews10 followers
May 15, 2021
Thoroughly interesting, Loonshots captures stories of success and failure featuring several prominent names that are household names because of their products.

What I liked most about this book is the way it was concise and structured. Safi Bahcall focused on 3 important tenets and further broke them down into 3 more, concisely explaining each of them in 15-20 pages without beating about the bush. This made each section an interesting read, almost like a business case study.

The only downside (and it's not really a downside per se) is that the man loves to illustrate business concepts using high school science metaphors, and if you're not a great fan of the chemistry classes you once attended, there's a certain 10-15 page section that'll leave you feeling a little jaded.
Profile Image for Pierre.
18 reviews
May 3, 2020
This is a great book.
I thought I had read a lot about innovation, but Safi taught me a few new things about it in Loonshots. In particular, all the cases studies are excellent.
Of special note is the chapter about Dunbar number and its implication for the quality of innovation in a company. Safi even derives empirically an innovation equation from which he infers the “non-political condition”. The rationale behind the equation is actually quite compelling and innovative. Fascinating!
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