The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts & Cultures by Frans Johansson is a remarkable book that should be on every entrepreneur’s bookshelf. It contains numerous practical insights and strategies that you can benefit from, no matter what profession or industry you’re working in.
The name of the book refers to the explosion of knowledge, culture and ideas that flourished during the Renaissance, fueled by the wealthy Medici family in Italy. It’s an appropriate metaphor for the explosion of disruptive business opportunities that we’re faced with today.
The Medici Effect is divided into three sections:
Part 1 – The Intersection: The first part of this book explains what the Intersection is — a place where ideas from different fields and cultures meet, leading to an explosion of ideas and possibilities. It also explains the forces that are creating it and why it’s growing in importance. Johansson also draws some important distinctions between incremental and disruptive, intersectional ones: “The key difference between a field and an intersection of fields lies in how concepts within them are combined,” he explains. “If you operate within a field, you primarily are able to combine concepts within that particular field, generating ideas that evolve along a particular direction — what I call directional ideas. When you step into the Intersection, you can combine concepts between multiple fields , generating ideas that leap in new directions — what I call intersectional ideas.”
Why are intersectional ideas important? Because they have the potential to create new markets — what Clayton Christensen calls disruptive innovations — and enable the people and companies who created them to become the leaders in the fields they created.
Interesting fact: communication technologies that enable collaboration, like the Internet, are helping to break down the walls between cultures, professions and fields of knowledge, unleashing massive opportunities for breakthrough innovation.
Part 2 – Creating The Medici Effect: This part of the book explains what associative barriers are, and why it’s important that they be low when you’re seeking intersectional ideas. It outlines some practical strategies you can use to lower your associative barriers, and how to find powerful combinations of different fields, cultures and areas of knowledge. It also does a fascinating job of explaining why explorations at the Intersection tend to yield an exponential increase in ideas and concepts. In short, Johansson builds a convincing case for why the Intersection is the most fertile field for innovation.
Part 3 – Making Intersectional Ideas Happen: Books about innovation and creativity tend to avoid the subject of failure, but Johansson dives right in, with page after page of instructive advice. For example, he outlines how to regard failures of intersectional ideas, which tend to be more frequent than those from directional ones. “Successful execution of intersectional ideas… does not come from planning for success, but planning for failure. Since we cannot rely on past experience to devise a perfect execution path, we must rely on learning what works and what doesn’t. Failures and mistakes during such a process are inevitable.”
This section of the book also offers some practical advice for “succeeding in the face of failure.” For example, when developing a business plan for an intersectional idea, the author recommends budgeting some funds for trial and error, and learning from past failures. Perhaps most important of all, Johansson explains the critical role that courage plays in entrepreneurial ventures. Your existing network of contacts may discourage you from pursuing your intersectional idea. In fact, he says that you will probably have to break away from your network to pursue intersectional innovation.
In a world filled with me-too, prescriptive tomes on innovation, The Medici Effect stands apart as a book that covers fresh ground, and does so in a very engaging way. This book contains a fascinating, diverse collection of real-world examples of how to find Intersectional ideas and profit from them. I give Frans Johansson a lot of credit for going beyond the “usual suspects” — notable innovators that everyone else has written about in their books — to find some fresh, new voices to illustrate how to pursue intersectional innovation in the real-world .