The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation

Medici

This book by Frans Johansson looks at breakthrough insights at the intersection of Ideas, concepts, and cultures. He recommends that you expose yourself to a range of cultures, learn differently, reverse your assumptions, and take on multiple perspectives. The tips on brainstorming research are worth the price alone. Johansson is a writer and consultant who lives in New York City.

Cultures Are Different

  • How different cultures view a grasshopper? USA – pest, China – pet, N. Thailand – appetizer
  • How different cultures view the color yellow? USA – cowardice, Malaysia – royalty, Venezuela – lucky underwear

Why Study Multiple Cultures

  • Exposure to multiple cultures gives you more ways to look at an issue. Cultures can be ethnic, class, professional, or organizational in addition to geographic. This promotes open, divergent or even rebellious thinking. One is more likely to question rules, traditions, and boundaries. Languages codify concepts differently. Fluency in another language can promote varied perspectives during the creative process.

Learning Lots on Your Own

  • Broad education and self-education are two keys to learning differently. Most fundamental innovations are achieved by people who are either very young or very new to the field. Learning fields on your own increases the chance of approaching them from different perspectives. Darwin: “all that I have learned of any value was self-taught.”

Prepare Your Mind

  • Louis Pasteur found a forgotten culture of chicken cholera bacteria. When chickens were injected with it they got sick but recovered. These same chickens when injected with a fresh culture survived. Pasteur realized that the chickens had been immunized and that his old culture served as a vaccine.
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