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

Review: Loonshots by Safi Bahcall

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.

Author: Safi Bahcall | Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 3/5

I read Loonshots as part of my subscription to the Next Big Idea Club (which I highly recommend!). The author combines principles from physics with that of business and innovation in order to show when and why companies go from great-idea-machines to great-idea-graveyards.

What I liked: It was packed with super interesting case studies from history that demonstrated the point. The writing style kept you engaged with these stories and brought me along through the book. I also really liked the integration of science — it was just the right amount. The scientific concepts were explained in plain English, without jargon or anything that made it feel like high school. It was just plain interesting.

What I didn’t like as much: Once we moved from real-life examples to practical applications and lessons, I wasn’t as engaged and rushed through just to finish. Also, by my count, only two women were mentioned in the entire book, and both of them were people’s wives. So, there’s that.

All in all, if the concept of this book intrigues you, it’s definitely worth your time.

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