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Why you should read The Medici Effect
Frans Johansson takes his title from the Medicis, the powerful financial family at the center of Renaissance Florence. Six centuries later, their example remains instructive. As bankers, the Medicis funded art, literature, science and politics. The intersection of these disciplines made Florence a wellspring of new ideas. Johansson tracks down modern Medicis who provide a lively, breezy introduction to creativity, innovation, and the interplay of ideas, disciplines and practices. He finds that innovation often occurs at the margins of existing disciplines, where new perspectives challenge the assumptions and entrenched practices of established fields.
Johansson offers an array of strategies for producing creative new ideas and cautions that “associative barriers” that keep your mind on familiar paths can limit your thinking. He suggests getting to know different cultures, jobs or people. Changing your environment forces you to approach problems from unfamiliar angles. Some of the best ideas Johansson covers come from people working outside the comfort of their usual specialties. When physically leaving your assumptions behind isn’t possible, try thought experiments. For instance, reverse the basic assumptions you hold about a topic. This doesn’t mean chemists should start composing symphonies. It does mean that you may need to strike “a balance between depth and breadth,” by moving into secondary fields in which you have some familiarity. These interdisciplinary intersections are uncharted territory that may require going without your usual professional network or risk assessment tools. To build your creativity, be independent and willing to fail, learn from your mistakes and persist. Johansson’s synthesis of major works and their insights is entertaining and useful. His enthusiasm is infectious. He’ll have you immediately sparking new ideas and finding ways to generate future innovations. getAbstract recommends his approach to anyone interested in innovation or creativity; it is especially appropriate for those new to the field.
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