The Five Laws of Loonshots

The Five Laws of Loonshots

Read this essay here: LinkedIn Weekend Essay.

Although years of Agile, Lean, Scrum and other management trends have drilled the mantra of Fail Fast and Pivot into our heads, the most important breakthroughs require a different set of principles. Underlying these principles — let’s call them the Five Laws of Loonshots — is a mindset: the most important ideas are surprisingly fragile. Nurturing them well requires the gentle hands of a gardener rather than the iron fist of a commander.

I call those ideas loonshots because the big ideas, the ones that change the course of science or business or history, rarely arrive with blaring trumpets dazzling everyone with their brilliance. They’re usually dismissed for years or decades, their champions written off as crazy. There wasn’t a good word for that in the English language, so I made one up.

The Five Laws began with a drink. Late one night in 2005, I sat down for a whiskey with Sir James Black, who won the 1988 Nobel Prize in medicine for developing the beta-blockers for hypertension and histamine antagonists for ulcers. After a marathon all-day session advising me and a small team of scientists on our cancer research, when I was close to collapsing from exhaustion and wondering how a man in his 80s could outlast me, I mumbled something about how hopeless one project seemed after a couple of failures in the lab.

Sir James leaned over, patted my knee, and said, “Ah, my boy — it’s not a good drug unless it’s been killed at least three times.”

I’ve come to think of that lesson as the First Law: the Three Deaths of the Loonshot….

Continued here: LinkedIn Weekend Essay.


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

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.

Loonshots, an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller, has been featured in the the WSJ, the Financial Times, the Harvard Business Review, the Washington Post, Forbes, Bloomberg, Newsweek, Nature, and Scientific American and was selected by Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, Susan Cain, and Adam Grant for the Next Big Idea Club.

Senator Bob Kerrey wrote: “If The Da Vinci Code and Freakonomics had a child together, it would be called Loonshots.”

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