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In his excellent book, The Medici Effect, author Frans Johansson suggests that the defining characteristic of successful innovators is that they produce and realize an incredible number of ideas.

In his excellent book, The Medici Effect, author Frans Johansson suggests that the defining characteristic of successful innovators is that they produce and realize an incredible number of ideas:

“In any given field of creative activity, it is typical to find that around 10% of the creators are responsible for 50% of all of the contributions. Not only that, those who have created the most are also the ones who have the most significant innovative impact. This was true in the past: Pablo Picasso, for instance, produced 20,000 pieces of art; Einstein wrote more than two at 40 papers; Bach wrote a cantata every week; Thomas Edison filed a record 1,039 patents. This holds true today. Prince is said to have over 1000 songs stored in his secret ‘vault,’ and Richard Branson has started 250 companies.”

Johansson goes on to say that not all of this creative output is equally successful. But the odds of generating a breakthrough concept as the number of ideas generated increases. The intersection of fields, cultures and disciplines — the focus of The Medici Effect — is a particularly rich ground for mining both a large quantity of ideas and unique combinations of ideas that lead to breakthrough innovations.

“The bottom line is this: The intersection of fields, cultures and disciplines generates combinations of different ideas, yes; but it also generates a massive number of these combinations. People at the intersection, then, can pursue more ideas in search of the right ones. Since intersectional ideas are the result of random combinations of concepts, it follows that the more random combinations one has, the better the chances of coming up with something truly exceptional.”

In short, according to Johansson, the intersection “is the best place to innovate.”  He says this principle explains why diverse teams can be more creative than homogenous groups, and why cultivating diverse self-education and occupations can help you to increase your output of exceptional ideas.

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