Safi regularly speaks with leadership teams about applying the ideas in Loonshots and on innovation, strategy, and transformation more broadly.
Recent and upcoming appearances include 360i, Amplitude, Boston Globe, CableLabs, the CIA, Fidelity, Gartner, Goldman Sachs, Google, IRI, Johnson + Johnson, Khosla Ventures, Merkle, Microsoft, Paypal, Samsung, Sequoia Capital, Spotify, St. Jude’s, the US Air Force, the US Navy, Viacom, 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, a national bestseller that has been translated into 18 languages and selected as a best business book of the year by Amazon, Bloomberg, Business Insider, Financial Times, Forbes, Inc., Medium, Strategy + Business, Tech Crunch, and the Washington Post. It was the most recommended book of the year in Bloomberg’s annual survey of CEOs and entrepreneurs.
Senator Bob Kerrey wrote: “If The Da Vinci Code and Freakonomics had a child together, it would be called Loonshots.”
Safi received his BA in physics from Harvard summa cum laude, completed his PhD in physics at Stanford, and served as a Miller Research Fellow in theoretical physics at U.C. Berkeley. He served for three years as a consultant at McKinsey and then founded a biotechnology company developing new drugs for cancer. He led its IPO and served as 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.
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—Strategy: The Four Rules of Reinvention
How did the music industry escape death? How did one mall succeed while all others failed? Why did Amazon beat Google in the race for cloud services—the business that now generates over half of Amazon’s profits? Learn the four principles that connect these examples: the rules of reinvention. Hear about the need to balance the two types of loonshots, the hidden gaps that must be closed, the common traps that needlessly sink new ventures, and how the best innovators overcome these challenges and balance the core and the new. Learn how Microsoft has been applying these same principles to rapidly catch up in the trillion-dollar race to dominate the cloud—transforming itself, along the way, from an also-ran into the most valuable company in the world.
3—Tactics: Bridging the Divide
You’ve figured out your strategy, the new businesses you’ll invest in, and the basics of your innovative culture and structure. Now what? So many new ventures fail because of the inevitable internal tensions between those working on the core and the new. One group seeks to minimize risk and maximize quality (deliver on time, on budget, on spec); the other seeks to maximize intelligent risk-taking at minimum viable quality (experiment). They speak different languages and often don’t understand—or even like—each other. Learn five techniques the best innovators use to bridge that divide. Why business plan or idea competitions are a terrible idea (and what you should do instead); the soft stuff (what it means to love your artists and soldiers equally); the need for bilingual specialists (what that means and how to build support for that role); how to make the wall porous; and, finally, the importance of a chief incentives officer.