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February 17, 2006

Innovation Download: Frans Johansson

Last night I attended a short presentation at C3 in Richmond with Frans Johnasson, author of The Medici Effect. Frans will be speaking at ASAE & The Center's upcoming Great Ideas Conference in San Diego (GIC blog), so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see him right here in my own back yard.

I left my notes at home, but here are a few points Frans made that really stuck with me:

ON INNOVATION: Humanity's capacity for innovation increases exponentially at the intersection of different cultures, professional disciplines, hobbies, etc.

ON DIVERSITY: A team composed of like-minded individuals will ramp up their capacity for innovation quickly, but also level out quickly. A team composed of diverse individuals will take longer to ramp up their capacity for innovation, but once that capacity begins to build momentum, it will overtake the like-minded team's capacity in short order.

ON RISK: Humans are natually risk-averse. Imagine you're driving down the road when you suddenly encounter a twisty, wet section of pavement. What do you do? You slow down, of course. Then, the road straightens out and gets dry. What do you do? Speed up, of course! But your risk for an accident remains about the same. Fight the urge to slow down when things "seem" risky.

ON DUE DILIGENCE: There is no direct correlation between the amount of research and development and success. For example Apple spent $500 million in R&D to launch a handheld computer called the Newton in the 1990's. Chances are, you've never heard of the Newton. On the other hand, the PalmPilot was introduced with an R&D budget of only $7 million. Now, who hasn't heard of the PalmPilot?

ON PICKING WINNERS: Humans are simply terrible at predicting which ideas will fly, and which will flop. Those who try the most new things will have the most success. When trying to choose which ideas to implement, simply pursue the innovations that you are most interested in or passionate about.

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