How a Cosmetic Chemist can use the Medici Effect to Innovate

Innovation is a subject I enjoy learning about, so I read as much about it as I can. Recently, I finished The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson. It was a great read and filled with practical information that any cosmetic chemist / inventor can use to help inspire new ideas.

Here is a basic summary of the key information from the book. I encourage you to get a copy and read it, but this should get you started.

Medici Effect book summary

I. The Intersection

In the first part, Johansson explains what he means by the Medici Effect. This is a phenomenon of extraordinary creativity created by the intersection of ideas from different fields. This effect is the source for the most revolutionary and innovative ideas.

He also explains that there are three factors that have led to an increase in the potential for revolutionary ideas including

a. The movement of people & blending of cultures
b. The convergence of different fields of science
c. The increase in computing power

Bottom line for cosmetic chemists —

If you want to create innovative ideas you need to combine fields that are not obviously related. (e.g To make a better cosmetic, go learn about pet biology, classical music, or fishing)

II. Creating the Medici effect

This part of the book explains the practical ways to go about creating the Medici Effect and generating a bunch of revolutionary ideas. The steps seem easy enough. First, break down the mental barriers that keep you stuck in your field. This can be done in a variety of ways including.

  • Expose yourself to new fields, people, and cultures.
  • Learn in a different way (be as self-taught in an area as you can)
  • Reverse assumptions — Think about all the assumptions about your current product and imagine what would happen if the opposite was true.
  • Randomly combine subjects

The book gives other ways for a team to create a Medici effect including

  • Work with teams of diverse occupation backgrounds
  • Work with teams of diverse ethnic / gender backgrounds

Bottom line for cosmetic chemists

To come up with the most innovative ideas, study subjects unrelated to cosmetic science, work with people a diverse group of people, and brainstorm frequently to come up with ideas. Quantity of ideas is much more important than Quality.

III. Making Intersectional ideas happen

The final section of the book is about how you can turn innovative ideas into actual products. You first have to realize that you are going to fail much more frequently than you succeed. Most of your ideas will be bad. But you have to learn from your failures, don’t be afraid of them, and don’t waste all your money/resources on one idea. Revolutionary ideas are risky but the payoff is worth the risk.

To make a revolutionary idea happen, you’ll also have to break out of your typical network of people. Your current network is set up to maintain the status quo. Most people will scoff at anything that is really innovative. To make it happen, connect with new suppliers, marketing partners and others that are not associated with your current network.

Bottom line for cosmetic chemists

Don’t expect your marketing group to love the innovative new idea you came up with. If it’s not something they can easily sell to Walmart or any of their other current customers, they aren’t likely to pay much attention to it. If you really believe in your idea, you are going to have to find a new way to make it happen. I think the Internet is a great place to test new ideas.

The Medici Effect is a good book but I would’ve liked some more step-by-step tips on actually generating ideas. The author references another book I just got called the Innovator’s Dilemma. That one is next up on my innovation book reading list.

Have you read a book about innovation that you thought was particularly good? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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