Michel Pireu Columnist

From Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases and Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall: The pattern of sudden changes in the behaviour of teams and companies — of the same people suddenly behaving in very different ways — is a mystery in business and social science. Entrepreneurs, for example, often say that big companies fail because big corporate types are conservative and risk averse. The most exciting ideas come from small companies, because, we tell ourselves, we are truly passionate risk-takers. But put that big corporate type in a start-up and he’ll be pounding the table supporting some wild idea. The same person can act like a project-killing conservative in one context and a flag-waving entrepreneur in another. A similar pattern is the essence of a strange quirk of matter called phase transition. Imagine a large bathtub filled with water. Hit the surface with a hammer: a splash, and the hammer slips through the liquid. Then lower the temperatu...

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