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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Loonshots

Loonshots

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

Safi Bahcall

St. Martin's Press

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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? Why do traffic jams appear out of nowhere on highways? What can we learn about innovation 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 applyin… More…

“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? Why do traffic jams appear out of nowhere on highways? What can we learn about innovation 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.

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Praise for Loonshots

“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

“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 … More…



“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

“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

"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, former Navy SEAL, recipient of the Medal of Honor, and president of The New School

“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

“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

"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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Safi Bahcall

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.

Safi Bahcall

St. Martin's Press

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