For this episode of The Innovation Engine, we’ll be looking at “loonshots” and how to nurture the crazy ideas that win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries. Among the topics we’ll discuss are why structure eats culture for breakfast, how and why phase transitions make the perfect environment for innovation to flourish, and the difference between P-type and S-type Loonshots.
Safi Bahcall joins us for this episode to talk those topics and more. Safi is the author of the just-published book Loonshots. The book has already received praise from many corners, including Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kanehman, one of the central figures in Michael Lewis’ 2017 book The Undoing Project. Kanehman says of Loonshots, “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.” The Washington Post named Loonshots one of 10 Leadership Books to Watch in 2019, and Business Insider called it one of the 14 Books Everyone will be Reading this Year.
Safi received his BA, summa cum laude in physics from Harvard and his PhD from Stanford. After working for three years as a consultant for McKinsey, he co-founded Synta Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company developing new drugs for cancer, and served as its CEO for 13 years. In 2008, he was named Ernst and Young’s New England Biotech Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2011, he served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Working Group on the Future of National Research.
You can tune in to the full episode using the SoundCloud embed below.
Culture tends to get an awful lot of attention in management books, but Safi is a believer that small changes in structure are what’s really necessary to drive change in groups. But why?
Safi shares many examples to bolster his points, including how the invention of radar, a prototypical loonshot, helped turn the tide of the World War II.