Book of the month

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries
by Safi Bahcall

LoonshotsThis book is an original and entertaining account of how to maintain a balance between chaos and stagnation in innovative enterprises and improve the chance of “loonshots” – sudden, crazy, lucrative breakthroughs.

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 biotech entrepreneur Safi Bahcall reveals a surprising new way of thinking about the mysteries of group behaviour that challenges everything we thought we knew about nurturing radical breakthroughs.

Drawing on the science of phase transitions, Bahcall reveals 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 reveals how this new kind of science helps us understand the behaviour of companies and the fate of empires. Loonshots distils 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 20th-century science was shaped by the search for fundamental laws such as quantum mechanics and gravity, the 21st will be shaped by this new kind of science. Loonshots is the first book 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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