Title: The Medici Effect
Author: Frans Johansson
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press
Reviewer: John Pope
This is an interesting book. Its theme is that radical new ideas and innovations in business can be found at the ‘intersection’ of ideas, concepts and cultures. It is a passionate plea to remind us, yet again, of the value of our and others’ imagination and experience, and of observing natural phenomena and the principles which underline them. It is a plea to widen our views; find new solutions for common problems; to move from conventional ‘linear thinking’; to ask the question ‘why not’, instead of ‘why’. It calls on us to bring in the experience of vastly different backgrounds and break our self-imposed barriers.
These points have been made many times before, but seldom with so much energy and such a wealth of examples. Johansson’s enthusiasm is highly infectious, though the way in which examples are piled up, one upon another, are sometimes confusing.
In different chapters the book sets out some techniques for thinking radically, and while some of these may be familiar to those who have attended creative problem analysis programmes, it is valuable to see them restated.
The book’s strengths lie in encouraging the flow of new ideas. It has less to say about managing the flow of creativity and of turning ideas into effective or profitable courses of action.
The title comes from the flowering of the Arts in Renaissance Italy which Johansson attributes to the financial backing of the Medici Banking family, and the attraction of artists to their wealth, leading to the establishment of a culture in which creativity and excellence could flourish. Perhaps the most important message in the book is the importance of managers generating such a culture in their own organizations.