On Diversity Led Innovation – The Medici Effect

Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen states that The Medici Effect is “One of the most insightful books on innovation I have ever read.” Clayton himself is a brilliant author and renowned expert on innovation. I have read many of his books and gotten so much of out it. So, I took Clayton ‘s advise and dug into The Medici Effect.

The Medici Effect” is a term coined by Frans Johansson and used throughout various industries to describe innovation that happens when disciplines and ideas intersect.

What is The Medici Effect?
The Medici Effect is a phenomena of innovation that occurs at the intersection of multiple fields, disciplines and cultures, by combining existing concepts to create extraordinary new ideas.

The name of the book is derived from the Medici Dynasty, an Italian banking family that came to power in the 14th century. The family’s wealth was able to support artists that led to The Renaissance. The book looks at examples of how Renaissance painters, sculptors, poets, philanthropists, scientists, philosophers, financiers, and architects, shaped historical eras of innovation. The Medici family did not intend the Renaissance, but contributed to it with what Johansson coins as the “Medici Effect”.

If you are a curious person like me, you are gonna wanna  know everything there is about the Medicis. So, start here: 7 Things You May Not Know About the Medicis

Check out this great summary: 5 Things Frans Johansson says about innovation

Johansson argues that all new ideas are just combinations of old ideas. In the realm of social innovation, this means that collaboration with people from different backgrounds is the key to success. Read: The Medici Effect’s Frans Johansson On The Intersection Of Innovation And Social Change

“Cultural diversity does not only imply geographically separated cultures. It can also include ethnic, class, professional, or organizational cultures. The mere fact that an individual is different from most people around him promotes more open and divergent, perhaps even rebellious, thinking in that person. Such a person is more prone to question traditions, rules, and boundaries—and to search for answers where others may not think to.”
― Frans Johansson, Medici Effect: What You Can Learn from Elephants and Epidemics



The Story of Two Mis-Fits

This is freaking high school. It is finals month.
Kids are cramming.
Moms are insisting the importance of cramming.
That is how the game is played this month.

Instead of studying, Adi is mixing Tamil movie dance hits and having me be the tester for his mixing skills with shared headphones.
I start out talking about the importance of grades..but quickly get sucked into the mixing gala and turn the discussion to how he could not only take over the Austin music scence but also gain valuble experience and make some really money if he DJed.

In this world of chasing grades and colleges, we are two mis-fits that don’t belong.

Do you think there is any hope for us?
I don’t see it.


Hopeless son.
Even more hopeless mom.

Book Launch: FOUND: Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas into One Sustainable Business

I met Naveen Lakkur and Dr Liz Alexander under very interesting circumstances through our common friend Rajesh Setty. Each of their life story reads like an Oscar award winning movie. But, I’ll save the story of the meeting for another day.

Naveen Lakkur  and Dr Liz Alexander recently launched a book titled FOUND: Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas into One Sustainable Business in Bangalore, India. The book is aimed at entrepreneurs.


I wanted to give you a “insider” peek into the book and the authors. So, without further ado, here is my interview with the authors.

Ambal: Found is filled with real-life case studies, interviews and stories, combined with helpful worksheets and quality visuals. What is the one thing that you want the reader to take away from the book?

Liz & Naveen: We both strongly believe that no idea is a bad idea. That said, you have to know how best to categorize your ideas in order to take appropriate action. That speaks to the Idea Matrix we feature in FOUND, that helps the reader identify whether they can build a sustainable business, or whether their idea has some other value.

A key message of our book is that not all ideas can or should become viable businesses. The five-step framework of FOUND (an acronym for Freeflow; Orientate; Unearth; Negotiate; and Decide) is there for any entrepreneur, intrapreneur or aspiring thought leader to determine which of their many ideas should be the foundation for their efforts. We want to save readers time, money and work by giving them a discipline with which to accurately identify and pursue “winning” ideas.

Ambal: Each entrepreneur’s journey is so unique. Both of you have such a fun and fantastic life journey before becoming entrepreneurs. How do you think your life and life choices influenced your entrepreneurial journey?

Liz: I was an intensely curious, adventurous, risk-taking child and that didn’t stop when I grew into adulthood. I describe myself as a global citizen: born in Scotland, educated in England, I lived and worked in France for a while, have traveled all over the world before finally settling in the U.S. where I’m now a citizen. On top of that I spend several months each year in India, which I love and where I’ll probably “retire.” It is this willingness to have many, varied experiences and learn from different approaches and cultures that, I think, has ensured I produce a steady stream of fresh ideas both for my own businesses and for the benefit of my clients.

Naveen: My father had a grocery store. Most of my childhood free time was spent in his store and many of my entrepreneurial lessons was learnt on the shop floor, so my father became my role model.

I grew up learning technology and watching successful entrepreneurs such as Azim Premji and Narayana Murthy in India. They became my new role models. With my increased global exposure at work I watched Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos and came to realize the power of technology to simplify things, and the need for solving big problems using technology. Inspired by them, I became a technopreneur myself. Now, as a mentor to several startups, every passionate entrepreneur who is determined to change the world for the better in a smart way, inspires me.

Ambal: Given you both live in different continents, how did you collaborate on the book from inception to launch? 

Liz: Naveen and I met originally several years ago in California at a wonderful event known as Cerebrate (which is where we also met you, Ambal!) By the time we collaborated on FOUND I had already helped Naveen finesse his first book, Inseparable Twins. The fact that I visit India for at least a month each time meant that over the two years we worked on this book we could meet face to face, including at the inception when I helped identify which of Naveen’s many ideas should be his second book.

Technology makes it easy to share materials, documents, and of course “visit” through platforms like Skype and Facetime. So it was easy enough to collaborate, even though we live on opposite sides of the world. Although I think Naveen would probably agree that the fact we could meet in person from time to time significantly boosted the energy, inspiration and excitement we found in working on this book together.

Having said that, I’ve successfully co-authored books with people I’ve never met, including Craig Badings in Sydney, Australia with whom I wrote #Thought Leadership Tweet.

Naveen: Having the experience of building and managing companies with teams distributed in different parts of the World, cutting across time zones, managing global projects, and building relationship with new acquaintances has become the way of life for me. The working relationship with Liz got established over a period of time. When it came to writing this book FOUND, it became a perfect match. She is an expert in translating thoughts into a book and I have the experience in the subject of ‘ideation’ with some of the intellectual properties that I have developed, practiced and guided others. Now with our combined force, this book is a reality, an outcome of many thoughts. We have always enjoyed working together.

Ambal: Who was/is your biggest “entrepreneur” role model?

Liz: I’ve long been a huge admirer of James Dyson, and not just because he’s a fellow Brit. He totally disrupted the vacuum cleaner industry long before that term became known and over-used. Dyson embodies the very best characteristics I see in successful entrepreneurs: that wonderful blend of engineering and design skills; passion and persistence (five years of making and testing prototypes!); self-belief in going ahead and manufacturing his own products when no body else believed in them; and sheer “cheek” (he apparently told his first buyer – a mail-order company – that they should take his product over Hoover or Electrolux because their catalog was “boring”).

Dyson also embodies something we talk about in FOUND, about how the desire to change the world tends to be based on some form of emotion, in his case frustration.

To be honest, if iRobot hadn’t come along with their Roomba, which means I now no longer have to do the vacuuming myself, I’d still be using my Dyson. But, as is the case with any true entrepreneur, his company now offers many other products.

Naveen: It’s hard to pick only one of them as I believe there’s something to learn from each person who has significantly contributed to the world of entrepreneurship. People like Azim Premji who had no technology background at all yet took a small family business to become the global conglomerate, Wipro. Or Narayana Murthy who showed to the world that a person from a simple middle class family background could build a large technology services company, Infosys, the first Indian company to be listed in Nasdaq. He is instrumental in helping many employees become millionaires, not just the top technical people but people who held jobs as secretaries or drivers, or were housekeeping staff.

Consider Bill Gates. There is so much to learn from him about business model innovation and he is now a role model on social impact. One side of an entrepreneur is to make money and the other side is to determine what you do with it. If you take Steve Jobs, an embodiment of passion, drive for design, eye for perfection…Oh! You are getting me excited, I can go on with the list of great entrepreneurs and my learning from them….:)

Ambal: Any book or blog recommendations for entrepreneurs  and wanna-be-entrepreneurs ?

Naveen & Liz: One book we would recommend is Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. This book covers the stories of certain entrepreneurs and their early days of building their companies, their struggles, their passions, persuasion, and many more things. What’s especially interesting are the many commonalities in their journeys, but we found one very unique commonality, and that was this: The way these entrepreneurs achieved their share of success, fame, and money was not always through their original idea. In fact, the learning we got from reading about these entrepreneurs is what inspired us to bring this book ‘FOUND’ to a reality. We wanted to present a five-part process for ideation that would increase the chance of building a sustainable business. So that even when their ideas get challenged or need to change, entrepreneurs would know what to do with the bigger, common problem of generating unlimited ideas.

In addition to that book, the Founder Institute presents a body of knowledge for both entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs. You will find useful articles, videos, references to books and courses to learn at www.fi.co.

Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to your blog, Ambal!


Do yourself a favor. Get the book, read it and re-read it.

Priced at $9.99 on Amazon Kindle, FOUND: Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas into One Sustainable Business is practically a steal.

Key to 2016: Personalize Marketing with the ICE Formula

What will successful B2B marketers to be doing more of or differently in 2016?

That question was recently posed to me and other thought leaders who contribute to B2B Marketing Zone, and 25 responded with a range of insights about content marketing, measuring results, employee advocacy, customer experience and other topics. The answers to that question—from influential bloggers like Michael Brenner, Paul Gillin, Cheryl Burgess, Jeff Cohen, Carla Johnson, Neal Schaffer, and J-P De Clerck among others—have been compiled in a really great, free eBook, B2B Marketing Trends for 2016.

My contribution was:

Personalized marketing is going to be on steroids in 2016. Marketers should engage meaningfully with different target audiences. Easier said than done, right? So, how do you personalize marketing?

Follow the ICE Formula:
I – Identify your Buyer Persona. A buyer persona is not a zombie—but a profile based on your understanding of a real customer and their real needs.
C – Create Compelling Content. Don’t just talk about your product or service. Instead, create an ebook, newsletter, video or podcast and educate your potential customer on how you can solve their burning problem.
E – Engage Meaningfully via Social Media. Use every contact with a potential buyer as an opportunity to listen and learn. Engage and educate them.

It was great to participate in this eBook and see the other contributions. Highly encourage you to download a copy of B2B Marketing Trends for 2016.