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



National Bestseller

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

#1 Most Recommended Book of the Year
-Bloomberg Survey of CEOs and Entrepreneurs

Loonshots reveals a surprising new way of thinking about the mysteries of group behavior that challenges everything we thought we knew about nurturing radical breakthroughs.

Bahcall, a physicist and entrepreneur, shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing new ideas to 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 shows how a new kind of science can help us become the initiators, rather than the victims, of innovative surprise.

Over the past decade, researchers have been applying the tools and techniques of this new science—the science of phase transitions—to understand how birds flock, fish swim, brains work, people vote, diseases erupt, and ecosystems collapse. Loonshots is the first to apply these tools to the spread of breakthrough ideas. Bahcall distills these insights into practical lessons creatives, entrepreneurs, and visionaries can use to change our world.

Along the way, readers will learn how chickens saved millions of lives, what James Bond and Lipitor have in common, what the movie Imitation Game got wrong about WWII, and what really killed Pan Am, Polaroid, and the Qing Dynasty.

Read the Five Laws of Loonshots


Not to be missed by anyone who wants to understand how ideas change the world.”

- Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

If The Da Vinci Code and Freakonomics had a child together, it would be called Loonshots.”

- Senator Bob Kerrey, Medal of Honor recipient, former governor of Nebraska and president of The New School

A groundbreaking book that spans industries and time.”

- Newsweek

An ambitious and entertaining effort … Bahcall makes the whole idea sing.”

- Financial Times

An essential read for leaders who wish to build a creative organization.”

- Ed Catmull, Founder and CEO of Pixar, author of Creativity, Inc.

Brilliantly explores one of the great challenges of leadership.”

- Gen. (ret.) Stanley McChrystal, former Cmdr. of US Joint Special Operations Command, author of Team of Teams

An absolute page-turner, packed with scintillating stories of world-changing ideas.”

- David Epstein, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Range and The Sports Gene

Wonderful … explores the beauty, quirkiness, and complexity of ideas … you need to read this book.”

- Siddhartha Mukherjee, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author of The Emperor of All Maladies  

James Bond, Isaac Newton, Jane Austen, a world chess champion, and disappearing fish are all used to illustrate the behavior of organizations. Brilliant, funny, fascinating.”

- Jennifer Aaker, General Atlantic Professor at Stanford, author of Humor, Seriously

Riveting stories … Bahcall’s fresh ideas and practical solutions—an unusual combination of psychology and physics—should change the way any person or team sets out to change the world.”

- Amy C. Edmondson, Professor at Harvard Business School, author of The Fearless Organization

“I inhaled Loonshots.”

- Stephanie Cohen, Chief Strategy Officer, Goldman Sachs

“A must read.”

- Kevin Scott, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft

When leaders ask me, “How can we be more innovative in a time of crisis?” I give them a copy of Loonshots.”

- Kim Scott, New York Times bestselling author of Radical Candor; formerly at Google, Apple; advisor to Dropbox, Twitter

A fantastic read for anyone who wants to unlock the power and potential of human creativity.”

- Evan Spiegel, Founder and CEO of Snap, winner of Fast Company 2020 Most Innovative Company award

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