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

This book has many accolades from accomplished authors – Daniel Kahneman, the writer of Thinking Fast and Slow, Siddartha Mukherjee, the author of The Emperor All Maladies, and others. Here is one I agreed with the most.

“Who knew that one idea could connect naval battles, chirping crickets, and the birth of modern science? If The Da Vinci Code and Freakonomics had a child together, it would be called Loonshots. This book is a must read for anyone in business, education, or public service.” ―Senator Bob Kerrey, Medal of Honor recipient, former Navy SEAL and president of The New School

I’m really glad I bought it in print. I took many notes, and I have a feeling I would revisit this book from now and then.

Loonshots, as it says on the back of the book, is a “neglected project, widely dismissed, its champion written off as unhinged.” It is about how these ideas can be nurtured into potential to change the world with the right formula, incentives, and as the physicist calls is, the right “temperature controls.”

The writer, Safi Bahcall, is a physicist by training. He had a stint at McKinsey and co-founded a biotech startup, which he led into an IPO. This book is a recollection of simple truths of management he found during his career, in history, and in organizations of how interesting ideas are curated. He brings together wonderful stories from bits of history, startups, the organizations structure at DARPA to incentivizing mechanisms at McKinsey. He takes us through his journey of the questions he must have asked himself – such as the relativity of innovation for strategy vs. product in incubating his startup.

While I was reading, I kept thinking to myself this must be how Stephen Hawking sees the world – in searching for the elegant theories that make sense of the world. It was refreshing to read from a voice who observed the world and made sense of it in structures and business models than mere observations.

He recognized the scientific principles that apply in organizational settings at McKinsey also as physicist turned entrepreneur. He weaves together humor and history in it all.

So yes, dare I say, I join the comments of many and add my high praise to this eclectic, pivotal book of this time – a moonshot book of our generation.