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The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures Hardcover – September 1, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Johansson, founder and former CEO of an enterprise software company, argues that innovations occur when people see beyond their expertise and approach situations actively, with an eye toward putting available materials together in new combinations. Because of ions, "the movement of people, the convergence of science, and the leap of computation," a wide range of materials available for new, recontextualized uses is becoming a norm rather than an exception, much as the Medici family of Renaissance Italy's patronage helped develop European arts and culture. For cases in point, Johansson profiles, among others, Marcus Samuelsson, the acclaimed chef at New York's Aquavit. An Ethiopian orphan, Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish family, with whom he traveled widely, enabling him to develop the restaurant's unique and innovative menu. (Less familiar innovators include a medical resident who, nearly assaulted by an emergency room patient she was treating, developed outreach programs designed to prevent teen violence.) Chapters admonish readers to "Randomly Combine Concepts" and "Ignite an Explosion of Ideas." Less focused on innovations within a corporate setting than on individual achievements, and more concerned with self-starting and goal-setting than teamwork, Johansson's book offers a clear enough set of concepts for plugging in the specifics of one's own setting and expertise. But don't expect the book to tell you where to get the money for prototypes or production.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"...there is a good deal that managers can draw from this collection of ideas." -- The Financial Times, 23 September, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591391865
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591391869
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Medici Effect opens slowly and at first I was disappointed: just another book of business successes. But as I began taking notes, I realized Frans Johansson really has a new message for all of us.

I recommend skimming the first chapters to get to the second part of the book, and then going back to understand application of principles. The heart of the book is about the definition of intersectional innovation and the conditions that must exist for breakthroughs to happen -- a combination of individual qualities, environmental support, luck and perseverance.

Perhaps the most helpful, most widely applicable guidelines involve planning for failure and, relatedly, moving from quantity to quality. Prolific authors, artists and business people tend to be successful. They might discard a dozen "bad" ideas to come to two or three successes. So we should reward people for actions, not just success. The only true failure is failure to act.

I also liked Johansson's discussion of risk, especially the notion of "risk homeostasis." If we take risks in one area, we compensate by avoiding risks in another. And a false sense of security can lead to senseless risk-taking.

Johansson's examples make fascinating reader and probably helped sell the book. But I couldn't help thinking that he offers little hope to the majority of people who find themselves in environments where they are forced to specialize. Risk-taking and diversity of experience tend to be discouraged and in fact we tend to disparage what I call the "winding road" career path. Richard Branson is an innovator; on a lesser scale, he'd be a rolling stone.

Johansson emphasizes that underlying diversity, most people have a core competence where they've developed a solid expertise.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frans Johansson starts with a great concept: that innovation is most likely to occur at the intersection of multiple fields or areas of interest. He's a good writer and does an admirable job organizing and tying together a number of relevant ideas and examples. The examples are also nicely done - a set of engaging stories which describe - in broad terms -how the innovators who are profiled got started and what they went through to acheive their breakthroughs.

But, beyond the nice examples, which are similar to those found in many other books, there is little that sets this book apart. The idea of crossing over and combining disciplines is not really a new concept and much of the discussion about the creative process is pretty basic. The book's introduction and chapter headings (e.g., "Creating the Medici Effect" and "Making Intersectional Ideas Happen") led me to expect more in-depth insights. But the Medici Effect is lite on the practical and it tends to describe the innovative process in general terms rather than exploring specifics of how it happens. In this sense, it's more inspirational than practical. If you're expecting finer details that you can readily apply, you may also be left wanting more.

For a more hands-on book on innovation, you may want to check out Tom Kelley's "Ten faces of innovation," which is based on Ideo's approach to framing and solving problems.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not an academic book. Nonetheless, all should read it, if for no other reason then simply in order to learn why having a broad-based knowledge and curiosity are essential attributes of a person living in the post-modern world.

The pattern of the book is not terribly innovative: good ideas followed by the expected examples of how sterling men and women implemented these concepts in practice and attained an even more sterling level of success. Altogether, very much in style of all other books aimed at predominantly business-oriented readers who, for whatever reason, need the examples set by (successful) luminaries in order to be converted to the creed. A more demanding reader may, upon seeing the same "follow the banality" pattern, reject the little volume as another horrid, trivial, and profoundly intellectually boring "thing." Do NOT do that: it would be a major mistake, and you would miss on a number of really important thoughts.

The book has a powerful message to all members of the academe, corporate executives, human resources operators and gurus. And practically, everyone else, including high school and university students. It should also be one of the most recommended self-help books for all university leaders guilty of having produced more than three generations of super-specialized graduates with very sketchy ideas about the world outside their own field of work. Reading one of the book's chapters every morning before going to work (best over morning coffee, and instead of the sports or cooking page) should be the compulsory task for all human resources executives that may clear their persistent misconception of a "well-defined" (1.e.
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The title of the book is very grand. However, the content of the book is far inferior to the title. I was expecting the concepts or ideas that would bring about splendors in philosophy, art and science in great magnitudes just like what took place in Renaissance, but instead the author just filled the pages mostly with small and insignificant examples and stories.

This is just a book on creativity. Its significance is not as big as the recent book, "A whole new mind," or older books such as "At work with Edison." It would be much better if the author can focus his study on how Renaissance came about and on how to replicate or recreate the favorable environment and fertile ground for bringing about another Renaissance on a comparable or even greater scale.

The biggest flaw of this book is that even though the main thesis of the book is on many people from single-disciplinary background coming together to create something multidisciplinary, most of the examples in the book are about single individuals having multidisciplinary abilities creating something new and not at all at the scale of the Renaissance. Besides the brain-reading program and the British code-breaking group mentioned in the book, all other examples were single individuals. So, where is the Medici effect of people coming together?

The second flaw of this book is the assumption that when people come together, a Renaissance will happen. The author is asserting that diversity in ethnicity, geography, age, and gender have a greater chance of coming up with unique ideas. This is wrong. What's needed is diversity of expertise, not just diversity. Diversity of mediocrity does not mean increased chance of creativity.

In summary, I am very disappointed in this book.
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