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

Safi Bahcall. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-18596-9
Innovation comes about when people bank on a “loonshot,” a “widely dismissed idea whose champions are often written off as crazy,” says Bahcall, cofounder of the biotech company Synta Pharmaceuticals, in this spirited but less than game-changing business guide. How can leaders take these crazy ideas and translate them into technologies that produce transformative products or services? Basing his work on science policy adviser Vannevar Bush’s WWII-era theories on how to usher in radical breakthroughs, Bahcall discusses Bush’s use of the physics concept of phase transitions as a framework for thinking about human behavior—for instance, how small changes in organizational structure, instead of culture, can change group behavior, much as “a small change in temperature can transform rigid ice to flowing water.” With boundless energy and enthusiasm, Bahcall outlines his own ideas, such as distinguishing between product and strategy type loonshots. While the presentation is persuasive, it’s hard to say that the world needed yet another book singing the praises of long shots. His work will likely prove too familiar to achieve the transformative effect he so admires. Agent: Jim Levine, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2018
Release date: 03/19/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 978-1-250-22561-0
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