THE MEDICI EFFECT: WHAT ELEPHANTS AND EPIDEMICS CAN TEACH US ABOUT INNOVATION by Frans Johansson (Harvard Business School), 207 pages, $18.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
From New York's haute restaurants to Richard Branson's Virgin empire, Harvard Business School grad Frans Johansson has devoted himself to exploring innovative ventures.
Truly original ideas come from a place called the Intersection, argues Johansson, where diverse fields of study get mashed together to produce new and innovative concepts.
The title refers to the golden age of the Intersection, under the patronage of the Medici family during the Renaissance, when artists, scientists and business interests rubbed shoulders to create an unprecedented array of innovative works.
Most fundamental discoveries are made by young scientists new to their field or people who have crossed disciplines. In business, companies that reward creativity and encourage interdisciplinary thinking are often ahead of the curve.
Leaders in science or business benefit from having flexible preconceptions about their fields and a healthy appetite for diverse experiences.
What makes Johansson's book stand above other business strategy books is its inclusion of practical exercises and tips for people interested in exploring the value of the Intersection.
For instance, the next time you get on a plane, buy a couple of magazines you wouldn't normally pick up.
Read a couple of articles at random, one from each mag, and then make a list of all the commonalities between them - in short, the points of intersection.
Dig into your assumptions about your own projects. Turn them on their heads. Imagine you're organizing a conference for I.T. professionals: instead of assuming the hall will be filled with middle-aged white geeks, imagine it filled with inner-city school children. Better yet, don't meet in a hall at all, but in a park.
Mashing up concepts like this in seemingly random ways encourages our brains to think non-linearly, and often results in surprisingly original ideas.
Play enough of these games and you're bound to hit on something unique and sellable.