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

Book - 2019
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"'What do James Bond and Lipitor have in common? Why do traffic jams appear out of nowhere on highways? How did the Allies win the secret war against the Nazis? Why does the world speak English? What do the answers to these questions tell us about building more innovative teams? Loonshots describes a new way to think about innovation: why a company's structure matters more than its culture. Safi Bahcall, a physicist and entrepreneur, applies the science of phase transitions to the behavior of teams. The Nobel laureate Phil Anderson once captured the essence of phase transitions with the phrase "more is different." The collective behaviors of liquids and solids are more than the sum of their parts. They are something new: phases of matter. The same molecules can behave in very different ways. Bahcall explains why the collective behaviors of people in teams and companies are something new: phases of organization. Small changes in structure can transform teams from nurturing breakthroughs to inhibiting them, just like small changes in temperature can transform flowing water to rigid ice. Understanding those phases can help us design more innovative teams. Loonshots describes the science, draws on examples from Pan Am to Pixar, and offers rules that creatives, entrepreneurs, and managers can use to innovate faster and better"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, St. Martin's Press,, 2019
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781250185969
Characteristics: xi, 349 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Feb 20, 2020

This is the first of the eight books I've read this year which, after completing, made me decide to buy the book to keep re-reading and as a reference! The book is that inspiring.

The author is an accomplished technologist and business executive. So, reading a book about the history of innovation and 'loonshot-ship' is like reading reading a book on the history of OS by, say, Steve Woz!

The book is brimming with real life examples of 'loonshots' (roughly, early stage and weird looking moonshots/ideas with immense potential, but often dismissed for a plethora of diverse reasons as a dud). The stories that back up the proposed hypotheses in the book - about nurturing innovation, the power of incremental innovations, huge potentials of minor strategic changes etc - are precisely what sets this book separate from other such hypotheses based books. Without these fascinating real-life stories of innovation-adventurers and trailblazers, the book would look like a self-help book for big companies.

The tales of Vannevar Bush's decisive role in harnessing the caliber of technology in winning the WW 2 for the Allied Powers, of Akiro Endo's contributions toward creating statin drugs despite a myriad obstacles etc are perpetually inspiring. But the author has done the hard part of extracting common themes from all these pioneers in the world of loonshots and narrated them in a captivating way. The accounts of American Airlines' most famous CEO Robert Crandall's strategic changes that helped AA win big in the brutal aviation industry is a great example of that, where the author divides the different types of innovations to p-type (product type) and s-type (for strategic ones). And the stories of obsessive innovator Edwin Land (about whom I had listened to for hours on the Foundr podcast) just makes the book even more riveting.

Overall, this is a book that can be read many times, and be inspired from its stories each time!

May 30, 2019

Batnick said book of the year


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