418: The Way to Nurture New Ideas, with Safi Bahcall


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Safi Bahcall: Loonshots Safi Bahcall is a second-generation physicist and a biotech entrepreneur. He co-founded a biotechnology company developing new drugs for cancer, leading its IPO and serving as its CEO for 13 years. He worked with President Obama’s council of science advisors on the future of national research. Safi is the author of the book Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries*. In this conversation, Safi and I discuss how leaders can work intentionally to nurture new ideas through three key practices. If you are an innovator (or leading an innovation team) and hearing the voices of the naysayers, this framework will help you begin nurturing new ideas more successfully. Key Points A loonshot is a neglected project, widely dismissed, its champion written off as unhinged. The ice cube is an analogy for the soldiers and artists in the organization. This is called phase separation. The most effective leaders view their work as gardeners, gently cultivating news ideas and investigating with genuine curiosity. Leaders who have a heart for both their soldiers and their artists will support a dynamic equilibrium in their organizations. Most innovation fails in the transfer between the artists and the soldiers. Steve Jobs is an example of a leader who, for many years, refused to show heart — but discovered it later with fantastic success. Resources Mentioned Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries* by Safi Bahcall Book Notes Download my highlights from Loonshots in PDF format (free membership required). Related Episodes The Four Critical Stories Leaders Need For Influence, with David Hutchens (episode 148) How to Build Psychological Safety, with Amy Edmondson (episode 404) Get Better at Deep Listening, with Oscar Trimboli (episode 408) Discover More Activate your free membership for full access to the entire library of interviews since 2011, searchable by topic.

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