By @SimonCocking review of The Medici Effect, With a New Preface and Discussion Guide: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation, by Frans Johansson and Teresa Amabile. Available from Amazon here.
Why do so many world-changing insights come from people with little or no related experience? Charles Darwin was a geologist when he proposed the theory of evolution. And it was an astronomer who finally explained what happened to the dinosaurs.
Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect shows how breakthrough ideas most often occur when we bring concepts from one field into a new, unfamiliar territory and offers examples of how we can turn the ideas we discover into path-breaking innovations.
Clayton M. Christensen, bestselling author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, has described The Medici Effectas “one of the most insightful books about managing innovation I have ever read. Its assertion that breakthrough principles of creativity occur at novel intersections is an enduring principle of creativity that should guide innovators in every field.”
For a book first published in 2004 it has aged surprisingly well. It’s first insights, almost 15 years ago now, were relevant enough to launch a whole consulting career for its author. The new foreword also provides an interesting catch up in how things played out for him since publishing the first edition. Briefly summarised you could say it’s basically about bringing together disparate elements to look at conventional problems from unconventional angles. If the idea seems self-evident in some ways this may be because the idea has been so powerful, and so widely accepted that what was once a brilliant insight, is now accepted as almost a commonplace concept. Except of course at the time, it wasn’t a common way to look at the world.
As mentioned earlier the examples cited have not aged too badly, so they can still provide inspiration to keep mixing things up and being open to look at things differently. Thinking outside the box maybe something between a truism and a cliche now, but a book like this can still be a refreshing thoughtful book to read.