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Review: The Medici Effect

/ May 22, 2014

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Unlike the recently-published books usually reviewed in TINAN, The Medici Effect by Swedish-American writer Frans Johansson was first released a decade ago, back in 2004. It takes its name from the machinations of the notorious House of Medici, a wealthy Florentine family known equally for its ruthless politics and its patronage of the arts and science, a combination that gave it a central role in birthing the Renaissance and the modern world. The book’s central argument is that the Medicis drove success by bringing together ground-breaking and innovative thinkers from a host of disciplines, and that success in today’s knowledge economy is also driven the multidisciplinary interactions of experts from different fields and areas of expertise. In essence, the collision of ideas, knowledge and insights from disparate areas of interest generates new concepts and new technologies that drive new entrepreneurial opportunities.

The Medici EffectIt’s a compelling idea, though Johansson is not the first to articulate it. Novelist Connie Willis outlined a similar concept in her 1996 novel Bellwether, and architects have been building informal “collaboration spaces” into buildings for almost 30 years. But Johansson’s book frames the concept  in the language of entrepreneurship and economic development – and as a result, it has become a “go to” text for those trying to explain how incubators, accelerators and small business generators are supposed to work and drive new economic activity.

Recently, the book has been re-appearing on must read lists, including a push from British policy-makers seeking renewed approaches to economic development. Like the innovative artistic and technological expressions of the Medicis, you can’t keep a good idea down – and The Medici Effect refuses to go away. To catch up on a classic that’s making the rounds again, you can pick up a copy here.

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