Safi has led workshops and delivered keynote presentations at industry conferences, leadership retreats, investor events, medical meetings, federal agencies, national security organizations, and leading academic institutions around the world. Since March of 2020, these have been conducted virtually – either live or pre-recorded.
Recent and upcoming appearances include 360i, Amazon, Amplitude, the Boston Globe, CableLabs, the CFO forum, the CIA, Fidelity, Flatiron Health, Gartner, General Mills, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs, Google, IRI, Johnson + Johnson, Kaiser Permanente, Khosla Ventures, ManTech, Merkle, Microsoft, the NIH, Paypal, Samsung, Sequoia Capital, Snap Inc., Spark, Spotify, St. Jude’s Hospital, Tencent, the US Air Force, the US Army, the US Navy, Viacom, VMWare, and Vizient. Safi has also presented at leading academic institutions including business schools and science, mathematics, or medical departments at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Caltech, Cornell, Bell Labs, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Safi is the author of Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries, an international bestseller that that has been translated into 18 languages and was the #1 most recommended book of the year in Bloomberg’s annual survey of CEOs and entrepreneurs. Loonshots was selected as a best business book of the year by Amazon, Bloomberg, Financial Times, Forbes, Inc., Newsweek, Strategy + Business, Tech Crunch, the Washington Post, and many others; and has been recommended by Bill Gates, Daniel Kahneman, Malcolm Gladwell, Tim Ferriss, Gen. (ret) Stanley McChrystal, and more.
Safi received his BA from Harvard summa cum laude, completed his PhD in physics at Stanford, and served for three years as a consultant at McKinsey and Company. In 2001, he founded a biotechnology company developing new drugs for cancer. He led the company’s IPO and served as its CEO for 13 years. In 2008, he was named E&Y New England Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2011, he worked with President Obama’s council of science advisors (PCAST) on the future of national research.
Safi advises CEOs and leadership teams on strategy and innovation, and is working on his next book. He lives with his wife and two children in Cambridge, MA.
1—(Keynote) Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas that Win Wars and Transform Industries
Why do good teams kill great ideas? Safi Bahcall reveals a surprising new way of thinking about group behavior that challenges everything we thought we knew about nurturing radical breakthroughs. Drawing on the science of phase transitions, and using stories that range from the hunt for U-boats in WWII to the search for new cancer drugs, Safi shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing wild new ideas to rigidly rejecting them. Hear fresh insights from this new kind of science and learn three techniques that creatives, leaders, and visionaries can use to liberate the ideas trapped inside small and large companies everywhere.
2—(Keynote) Strategy in Times of Crisis
Learn how Amazon beat Google, how one mall succeeded while all others went bankrupt, and how the music industry escaped death. See how these examples illustrate three principles – a strategic checklist for choosing new markets and initiatives wisely in times of rapid change: how to spot new opportunities, exploit hidden advantages, and resolve the most common mistake in launching new businesses. Learn the story behind the four letters Safi has taped to his office wall: how the worst drug in history became a life-saving medicine, and what that means for leadership in times of crisis.
3—(Keynote) The 21st Century CXO
Companies rarely fail to innovate due to a lack of ideas. Creating an innovation lab and applying lean and agile methods are commonplace. Companies most frequently fail in adoption: in bridging the divide between artists + soldiers. Learn three initiatives — changes to structure rather than culture — that the 21st century CXO can introduce to solve this problem. (1) Fixing measurement: how using a carefully designed innovation matrix can help align Board, executive team, and employees, as well as encourage intelligent risk-taking. (2) Fixing balance: how a specialist group of program champions, with the right reporting structure and skillset, can reduce politics and resolve problems in the middle layers, freeing the leadership team to lead rather than referee. (3) Nurturing experiments: why business plan competitions and focus groups kill innovation, and what you should do instead.
Breaking through the traps of success
Learn ten common barriers to innovation that teams and companies face after building a successful franchise, and how to overcome those barriers by building a bottom-up, integrated, rapid innovation system. Actionable takeaways, illustrated with real-world examples and fun, surprising stories – going well beyond Loonshots – include: product vs. strategy innovation; bridging the divide between artists and soldiers; balancing your cruise ships, speedboats, and helicopters; separating governance from management; reducing the fear and stigma of failure to encourage intelligent risk-taking; aligning Board and executive team; identifying 3-4 innovation focus areas through red-team/blue-team or future-back exercises; and shifting from top-down to bottom-up innovation driven by rapid experiment teams (pretotyping). Workshops can be conducted online or in person.
Read the Loonshots Letter
Read the Five Laws of Loonshots
“A groundbreaking book that spans industries and time” –Newsweek
“If the Da Vinci Code and Freakonomics had a child together, it would be called Loonshots” –Senator Bob Kerrey