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Publisher's Summary

This program includes a prologue and introduction read by the author.

Washington Post's "10 Leadership Books to Watch for in 2019", Adam Grant's "19 New Leadership Books to Read in 2019", Inc.com's "10 Business Books You Need to Read in 2019", Business Insider's "14 Books Everyone Will Be Reading in 2019"

“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? 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 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 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 20th-century science was shaped by the search for fundamental laws, like quantum mechanics and gravity, the 21st 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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Safi Bahcall (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

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Very well researched thesis on nurturing change

great book and well presented. very easy listening, with lots of examples, analogies and stories to explain the fundamental theory and key concepts.

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Pure brilliance

A must read for anyone in management positions or building a team. Also provides interesting snipets of history

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Just so good

Just can’t get enough. Love listening to Safi, shame he couldn’t read the whole book

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pretty good

there's a lot of good points in here but the attempt to suggest ultimate unifying theories and formulas fall a little flat. well worth the listen, certainly thought provoking and transferrable

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too much rambling

some good content but too much rambling before getting to the point. Suggest getting to the point earlier

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  • Andrew C
  • 18-04-2019

The first practical innovation book

The book that moved the academic innovation conversation from theory to practice. I admit I loved Clay Christensen's work on "disruptive innovation" as it was the best that was out there before, but this book absolutely crushes previous analysis of innovation.

I love the understanding of problems across domains, particularly phase transitions - water shifts from ice to liquid at a threshold of 0 degrees, similarly companies shift from fostering loonshots to politicking at an organizational size of roughly 150. However, there are levers or "control parameters" that can be used to change when phases transition, similarly to how we put salt on ice which reduces the temperature required for it to melt. Safi proposes a beautiful and actionable formula that captures these control parameters for organizations.

I love the definition of management which is so true: management is about facilitating the harmony between the creatives (one's involved in loonshots) and the soldiers (one's involved in franchise projects) which he calls being a gardener, versus being the individual that chooses which loonshots should be pursued or not (he identifies as the Moses trap). Safi also proposes a useful dichotomy of innovations, p-type which are technologically related, and s-type which are strategy and business model related. While both should be garnered, companies can develop a tendancy to only focus on p-types which have resulted in their demise. Finally, there are fantastic cases to explain all this including Pan Am airways, Bell labs, world war 2, steve jobs and Pixar, and many more.

Don't miss out on this one and refer it to a friend.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Chad B Wickland
  • 08-04-2019

Excellent and brilliant

Gain the tools to bring great ideas to their full fruition by listening to this incredible book!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Tim
  • 23-09-2019

This book ought to change the world...

Bahcall beautifully synthesizes his perspective on innovation with richly described, often poignant stories of innovators. This approach never feels excessively historical, and provides a more memorable texture to the pragmatic lessons and principles he explores.

Moreover, as a researcher deeply rooted in the dynamical systems perspective that shapes much of Bahcall's view of innovation, the science in and behind the book is treated with the care and rigor needed to ensure this isn't just another successful entrepreneur repackaging their lucky break as a set of life lessons. Bahcall helps us to see how the objective principles of complex adaptive systems apply to innovation in social groups, but never makes overextended claims about what businesses must do in order to succeed.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

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  • Mimi Stahlberg
  • 28-03-2019

Inspiring storytelling for wide audiences

Captivating, rich story-telling with practical takeaways in essentially every paragraph. Whether you’re an innovator, businessman, scientist, thinker or simply just someone who enjoys inspiring stories with twists and underdogs hitting it out of the ballpark, this book is for you. The audiobook is easy to listen to - good selection of a voice actor for those of you that are picky about that.

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  • pd park
  • 25-04-2019

Not a fan of the narration style

The narrator’s voice keeps dropping at the end of every sentence to almost a whisper. Turning the volume up makes the louder part of every sentence too loud. I’ve listened to many audio books and never had this problem before.

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  • cathskeller
  • 09-02-2020

gimmicky: old ideas in new packaging

i kept waiting for some new ideas or interesting thinking, but ultimately gave up. the author tries to spin the content as new, but it's a lot of old stories with familiar conclusions.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Charles Cumiskey
  • 12-04-2019

A must read for leaders

This book has so many insights on why leaders and organizations fail or are successful. Understand why innovation dies in organizations and much more....

5 people found this helpful

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  • Sal
  • 19-07-2019

an average book

I bought it because of this book was mentioned on some of the top podcasts and Safi's background story sounded cool. The book is unnecessarily long and overall average storytelling. Unless you are from biotech background, you might even feel bored by too many lenghty biotech domain stories. For me personally, in the ocean of amazing books out there, I left it midway. Hence 3 stars.

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  • Jenny Squibb
  • 02-03-2020

Irksome Equation

I lost a lot of trust for this books material when the author introduced an equation for organizations that results in a number M (magic number) that he conveniently matches up with the “ideal” size of cohesive large groups of humans. The units of M are not people, so this is a spurious relationship.

1 person found this helpful

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  • 21stCenturyCOL
  • 28-04-2019

Safi Bahcall nails it!

Safi (an academic turned biotech maverick) artfully tells how to find, nurture and even build teams to set conditions for Loonshots. He also show why some paddle too early for the right wave and others not hard enough to catch it. The science behind it is his best piece closely seconded by an insightful conclusion.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Seboto
  • 28-10-2020

Long winded, disjointed and not convincing!

I wanted to like this book and got it after seeing it on Bill Gates recommended list and reading the synopsis.
However, I could not get into it and felt the whole concept was flawed from the start. The examples are mostly good and interesting stories. But it felt like these examples were cherry-picked to support his concept and interpretation of loonshots.
All defined within the context of large corporations and organisations and trying to categorize those loonshots in different types (you are either a P or an S type)... seems quite restrictive, very black and white very little room for maneuver .
This is even more apparent when it reaches the chapter on "critical mass". Where the author define a self-made equation to support his theory. It appears to be drumming up business for his consultancy business and how companies need to hire someone to define and implement incentives for employees to promote loonshots!
The book is interesting and offers some concepts that are worthwhile studying but to me it didn't work, may be because I don't have a "big corporation" mentality.
The narrator was good, enjoyed his performance.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-08-2020

An easy listen

The notion of a ‘loonshot’ is quite simple, it’s an idea that people initially dismiss, but is pursued and goes on to be a success. Although the book attempts to make that seem profound, it’s really not. So whilst there are some interesting facts and stories in the book, it failed to hold my attention. It’s relatively well narrated though and was an easy listen, if that’s what you’re after.

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  • Ana
  • 21-07-2019

Good story telling

If not privy to the history of technologies used in the book, it is definitely a great initial source. The stories were told quite well. There were some interesting conclusions but can be repetitive and summarised below 1000 words. Would recommend listening at the gym, shopping, in the car, etc as it doesn’t require very deep focus.

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  • Scott mckendrick
  • 07-05-2019

loved it, I also bought the hardcopy

loved it so much, I bought the hardcopy so could take notes and do a deep dive

1 person found this helpful

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  • Zoe
  • 05-05-2021

Outstanding read

Open your mind to the traps and pitfalls of the modern day 'successful' company, as they glide into auto pilot and play it safe, ignoring and sidelining new information or technology. This book is an excellent investment in time for all organisational leaders

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  • Ben Cobbold
  • 01-05-2021

spool good, must hear

I'm thinking I might put it on our student reading lists for physics study, new, clear ideas with good punchy stories

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Liam N
  • 06-01-2021

A good "read"

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anybody with an interest in outside the box innovation and the luck/happenstance that got us to where we are today.
My only criticism is that the concept felt like it was stretched a little thin by the end, and the book would probably have benefited from some slightly tighter editing re: overall length.

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  • MR A S RAMSAMMY
  • 17-11-2020

Irrelevant

This audiobook is not at all what it promises to be. It is full of long, anecdotal, exceptionally partisan passages which are meant to be making a point but somehow miss it every time.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • A. Walsh
  • 06-08-2020

An excellent book full of provocative insights

I really enjoyed this book. The author opens the book and I always prefer to hear the voice of the author. To be honest, I found the voice of the narrator a little annoying at first, but I got used to him and the strong story line caught my attention. it certainly made mowing the lawn and walking the dogs much more enjoyable during lockdown!!!

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  • J A Parkes
  • 24-05-2020

Well written, practical insights

Insight on false fails, and the warts on baby ideas should encourage entrepreneurs trudging through the innovation journey.

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