Book Reviews The Medici Effect: A Book Review by Bob Morris Written by: Bob Morris
The Medici Effect Book Cover

The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation
By Frans Johansson
Harvard Business Review Press (March 2017)

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb

This is a revised, updated, and expanded edition of a book first published in 2004, with a new preface by Teresa Amabile and a discussion guide that will help facilitate, indeed expedite application of Frans Johansson’s valuable insights as to how and why breakthrough creativity happens at the Intersection of different fields, ideas, people, and cultures.

As he explains, the Intersection “becomes a place for wildly different ideas to bump into and build upon each other.” Intersectional collisions of ideas can occur almost any tine and anywhere, involving and engaging almost anyone in spontaneous collaboration between and among “multiple fields, generating ideas that leap in new directions – what I call intersectional ideas.”

Those who were engaged in the Manhattan Project offer the best example I can think of. What they achieved together could only be done at an Intersection rather than within the field of nuclear physics or mathematics…or both.

“The Medici Effect Discussion Guide” contains material designed to help the reader to “solidify the major concepts and themes discussed in the book. I’ve segmented into two parts. The first part consists of reflective questions meant to enable you to think deeper about the major concepts and can be discussed with friends or coworkers at book clubs, company meetings, off-sites, or even on a car ride. The second part presents twelve methods for how you can step into the Intersection and innovate.”

As he explains, Johansson wrote this book to achieve three objectives:

1. “The first is to explain what, exactly, the Intersection is and why we can expect to see a lot more of it in the future. You will see how three critical factors [i.e. The Movement of People, The Convergence of Science, and The Leap of Computation] are working together to increase the number of intersections around the world.”

2. “The second is to explain why stepping into the Intersection creates the Medici Effect. You will see why it is such a vibrant place for creativity and how we can use the intersections to generate remarkable, surprising, and groundbreaking ideas.”

3. “Finally, the third objective is to outline the unique challenges we face when executing intersectional ideas and how we can overcome those challenges. You will see how execution at the Intersection is different from within established fields, and you will learn how to prepare for those differences.”

As indicated, the Intersection “becomes a place for wildly different ideas to bump into and build upon each other…The name I have given this phenomenon, The Medici Effect, comes from a remarkable burst of creativity in fifteenth century Italy.”

How to create workplace culture within which all manner of intersections are most likely to occur? Here is what Johansson suggests.

  1. Draw inspiration from industries or cultures very different from your own
  2. Hunt for Intersections
  3. Put up an Intersection wall (i.e. display of possibilities)
  4. Introduce/engage one or two outsiders in regular team meetings
  5. Hold Intersection councils
  6. Set up Intersection workrooms
  7. Ensure diversity on your team and in organization
  8. Map out your background to bring your whole self to work
  9. Atomize all of a word’s various meanings, contexts, and related words
  10. Make Medici visits outside your enterprise
  11. Set up micro-teams (i.e. fewer people in discussion modules)
  12. Take an Intersectional journey (i.e. create a visual Intersection)

All this is thoroughly explained on Pages 211-217.

I agree with Frans Johansson:

“The world is connected and there is a place where those connections are made – a place called the Intersection. All we have to do is find it…and dare to step in.”

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Bob Morris reviews mostly business books for several websites (including Amazon US, UK, and Canada) and interviews thought leaders when not helping his corporate clients accelerate their employees’ personal growth and professional development. Read more book reviews from Bob on his site, Blogging on Business.

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