Business Book Review: How crazy ideas sometimes change the world

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries
By Safi Bachall
St. Martin’s Press
In 2004, a team of engineers was gripped with a fantastic idea: They would make a handheld phone with a big color screen and give it the ability to connect to the internet. Plus they would set up a store where people could download applications for the phone.
Sound familiar? Surprise. Those engineers were not at Apple. They were at Nokia, where that crazy idea was shot down soon after birth.
Three years later, writes Safi Bachall, Nokia engineers watched Steve Jobs introduce their dumb idea on a stage in San Francisco.
Bachall’s book chronicles Loonshots, crazy ideas that change the world — or would change the world, if they weren’t buried and forgotten.
Bachall’s exceedingly readable book combines the principles of science with business to show how good teams often kill good ideas.
The structure of companies and teams means more than culture, he writes. Bachall points out that small, starving companies can produce dazzling results because the stakes are high for all members. Rank doesn’t matter. But as the teams get larger and more successful, the stakes aren’t nearly as high. Then rank matters more. At that point, good ideas can be ditched.
Small changes in structure, not culture, can transform a team, he writes.
This book will interest business leaders for its unique take on teams and culture. But anyone who wants to know about the nature of success and failure will be fascinated by the many stories Bachall tells.