The Medici Effect Three Big Ideas
- The intersection of multiple fields is what brings about innovation
- Innovation can happen when we least expect it
- Breaking rules, taking risks and shipping ideas are necessary for innovation
Associative Behaviors (page 39)
When presented with information, our brains unravel a chain of associations to come up with an answer quickly. Chains of associations are efficient and help us move from analysis to action. People with high associative behavior will have answers similar to others in the group. This is great if you are trying to find the most common answer but doesn’t suit you well if trying to find a new or unusual idea. On the other hand, people with a low associative behavior will often find answers that no one else can see.
Traditional Schools and Self Education (page 50)
Paul Maeder, founder of venture capital firm, Highland Capital sees formal education as potentially limiting creativity. In school you will abide by the rules and learn the exact way to do things, and will give you great expertise in a particular field which is helpful if you’re are going to be a doctor or an engineer but this is not helpful if you are trying to bring about change. Maeder observes that innovators are often self taught and educate themselves intensely among broad topics. When we learn on our own, we approach ideas from a new perspective.
Challenging Assumptions (page 55)
Assumption reversals help you to think about problems in a new way. The goal of this exercise is to clear your mind of preconceived notions. Below are the three steps from the book
- Think about a challenge you are facing
- Write down all of the assumptions, then reverse them
- Think about how to make those reversals meaningful
The example they use in the book concerns a restaurant. The assumptions are that restaurants have menus, restaurants charge money for food, and restaurants serve food. The reversals include, a restaurant will make food based on what they purchased at the market that day, they would charge for the space but not the food, and that customers could bring their own food to the restaurant.
This is not saying that you are always going to get a breakthrough idea but it does knock down walls that we often put in front of ourselves.
When We Know the Answer; It’s Obvious (page 67)
In a study, a group has to figure out how to tie two pieces of string hanging from the ceiling together using any of the tools available on a desk (pliers). When people first try to do by pulling on the strings, they get nowhere as the string they pull will retract the other string. It isn’t until they think to tie the pliers to one string and use it as a pendulum that this is possible. The same can be said with trying to tack a candle to a wall or notice something in this video. Once we see the answer, it seems obvious. But there are many instances where we don’t see what we don’t see.
Occupation Diversification (page 74)
Occupation Diversification is when a person switches fields or projects or jobs and gains insights into many different types of fields. This is what helped Luis Alvarez, an astronomer with an interest in paleontology, to propose the theory that an asteroid is responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs when paleontologists couldn’t figure it out.
Orit Gadiesh and the Renaissance Man (page 76)
My favorite quote in the book came from Orit Gadiesh when she says, “To me the modern Renaissance man is curious, interested in different things. You have to be willing to ‘waste time’ on things that are not directly relevant to your work because you are curious. But then you are able to, sometimes unconsciously, integrate them back into your work.”
Quantity of Ideas (page 96)
In order to have quality ideas, we must first have a high quantity of ideas. Johansson uses Thomas Edison as an example of someone who was constantly creating. He also uses Richard Branson. Sometimes I think we get stuck on trying to have a perfect idea but the best ideas are changed and improved over time so it is important that we get them out there. He also states later on page 106 that we need a lot of ideas because our first ideas are common ideas. They are not very creative. We don’t start getting creative until much farther down the list.
The Innovation Equation (page 100)
The story of Mike Oldfield and how his album Tubular Bells fused rock and classical music. Johansson lays out all of the possible instruments, structures, and vocals for rock music and comes up with 2,400 combinations. He does the same thing with classical music and again comes up with 2,400 combinations. But when you combine two different fields you multiply them and get (2,400 x 2,400) 5.7 million possible combinations. It goes to show how when you combine experience in multiple fields how you can increase the combinations needed for innovation.
Failure and Output (page 129)
Failure, and risking failure is discussed in depth. One of the most inspiring lines for me is “failure implies some sort of output.” I think this is important because often we don’t ship an idea because it’s not perfect. But then you never produce anything. At least if you fail, you tried, and put something out there that can be improved upon in the future.
Acknowledgement (page 141)
Rewards can often make us less creative. Tests have shown that groups given rewards for creativity did far worse than groups that came up with creative ideas on their own. One things many creative seek out is acknowledgement for their creativity and that acknowledgement can often be far more valuable than monetary rewards.
The Value Network (page 149)
Successful and established companies often got to where they are because of their network. Suppliers and customer like who they are and where they are. This makes it difficult to innovate because it is hard to do so without disrupting your value network. This often why smaller startups have an easier time disrupting industries because they don’t have to rely on old trusted networks and can try new things.
The Story of Linux (page 157)
The story of how Linux came about is pretty incredible as Linus Torvalds had the audacity to create an open source operating system that was free and allowed others to contribute to the development. The establishment didn’t like him and his ideas but Linux has grown to become one of the most trusted operating systems in the world.
The Paradox of Success (page 174)
When things are going well, we become risk averse because we don’t want to rock the boat. However this is the best time to try new things.
Interesting People Mentioned in The Medici Effect
Other Books Mentioned in The Medici Effect
Cracking Creativity by Michael Michalko pg 55
Weird Ideas that Work by Robert Sutton pg 82
Origins of Genius by Dean Simonton pg 96