Table of Contents

And then we’ll see how small changes in structure, rather than culture, can transform the behavior of groups, the same way a small change in temperature can transform rigid ice to flowing water. (Location 45)

So here’s the argument in brief:

The most important breakthroughs come from loonshots, widely dismissed ideas whose champions are often written off as crazy.

Large groups of people are needed to translate those breakthroughs into technologies that win wars, products that save lives, or strategies that change industries.

Applying the science of phase transitions to the behavior of teams, companies, or any group with a mission provides practical rules for nurturing loonshots faster and better. (Location 50)

Tags: innovation, loonshots

“When asked what it takes to win a Nobel Prize, Crick said, ‘Oh it’s very simple. My secret had been I know what to ignore.’” (Location 106)

Drugs that save lives, like technologies that transform industries, often begin with lone inventors championing crazy ideas. But large groups of people are needed to translate those ideas into products that work. (Location 122)

Useful lessons from Amgen’s story include picking up the check for dinner and hiring good lawyers. But otherwise, extracting culture tips, after the fact, from its terrific stock price performance is like asking the guy who just won the lotto to describe the socks he was wearing when he bought the winning ticket. (Location 146)

Being good at nurturing loonshots is a phase of human organization, in the same way that being liquid is a phase of matter. Being good at developing franchises (like movie sequels) is a different phase of organization, in the same way that being solid is a different phase of matter. (Location 204)

When people organize into a team, a company, or any kind of group with a mission they also create two competing forces—two forms of incentives. We can think of the two competing incentives, loosely, as stake and rank. (Location 217)

When groups are small, for example, everyone’s stake in the outcome of the group project is high. At a small biotech, if the drug works, everyone will be a hero and a millionaire. If it fails, everyone will be looking for a job. (Location 220)

As teams and companies grow larger, the stakes in outcome decrease while the perks of rank increase. When the two cross, the system snaps. Incentives begin encouraging behavior no one wants. Those same groups—with the same people—begin rejecting loonshots. (Location 222)


1 How Loonshots Won a War

Both had witnessed the tendency of generals to fight a war with the weapons and tactics of the preceding war. (Location 339)

Note: People are often unprepared for a new challenge,using old tactics and ideas