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

Monday 20/May/2019 - 10:26 AM
Book Cover
Book Cover
Edited by: Yara Sameh
*Wall Street Journal bestseller
*Next Big Idea Club selection―chosen by Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Dan Pink, and Adam Grant as one of the "two most groundbreaking new nonfiction reads of the season"
*Washington Post's "10 Leadership Books to Watch for in 2019"
*Inc.com's "10 Business Books You Need to Read in 2019"
*Business Insider's "14 Books Everyone Will Be Reading in 2019"
*Management Today's "Top Business Books to Read in 2019"

“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.


Hardcover: 368 pages
Author: Safi Bahcall
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 19, 2019)
Language: English
Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches

About the Author
Safi Bahcall received his BA summa cum laude in physics from Harvard and his PhD from Stanford. After working for three years as a consultant for McKinsey, he co-founded a biotechnology company developing new drugs for cancer. He led its IPO and served as its CEO for 13 years. In 2008, he was named E&Y New England Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2011, he worked with the president's council of science advisors (PCAST) on the future of national research.

Editorial Reviews
“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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