Best-Selling Author Frans Johannsson: ‘Why Hard Work Alone Doesn’t Guarantee Success’

Frans Johansson and The Medici Group are new-school innovators looking to bring their solutions to the world of business

Driving with Diversity

So, if the business world is so unpredictable, how do you succeed? The Medici Group, an internationally diverse team of 20, offers clients a system of processes.

“It’s an accessible approach, not highly complex,” says John Geyer, vice president of innovation at MetLife. “There are a lot of consultants that try to educate you about their methodology, which seems really complicated and abstract. Most of the other companies had the same pitch—do a bunch of market research, do a bunch of interviews and focus groups—like a formula. Frans and the Medici Group had a different formula: Bring together a bunch of diverse people, brainstorm intensely like you’ve never brainstormed before, ruthlessly prioritize, and go out and experiment—in a few months instead of a few years.”

Medici offers strategic options to meet company goals as expressed by leadership—whether it’s to increase revenue, to grow new lines of business, increase efficiency, or effect a culture change, says Lily Tang, the company’s chief learning strategist. The execution phase is a quick, deliberate, three- to four-month period focusing on the ideas developed by the client to decide which projects to keep.

“Whatever their goals are, we align those ideas with the goals and then take those ideas through a process of development, test them, many times change them, and in the end provide strategic options that can really be implemented,” says Tang. “We don’t tell them anything. We let them experience it themselves. So they’re not our ideas. They create it. They own it. We provide skills and tools to develop amazing, groundbreaking ideas.”

Innovation, the theme of Johansson’s first book, is the company’s driving principle. In the brainstorming, idea-generating part of the process, Johansson’s team includes every element that could possibly spark a new way of thinking and open up the broadest possibilities. It’s at the intersection of varying ideas that “click moments” happen, the aha experience that sets you on the path to creating something new and different.

“You have to expose yourself to different insights, different markets, assets, resources, talent, relationships, ideas, perspectives,” offers Johansson. “When you expose yourself to these differences the time to pay attention is when you get surprised. This is the thing that counteracts hard work, if you will. When in our work something happens that we haven’t seen before, we tend to swat it away and go back to what we were doing. But every time we stumble across something that is unpredictable or unexpected, we should pay more attention to those things.”

At MetLife, Medici worked with a Latin American team of 55 employees. Diversity in the group included gender, race, level within the organization, tenure with the company, age, and functional expertise. “There are many talented people buried in organizations that most leadership teams aren’t aware of,” says Geyer, who shares that MetLife has adopted some of Medici’s core principles. “Often the most innovative people in your company are not the most outspoken. Finding those people who had really good ideas, but who were somehow a little uncomfortable expressing them, is a challenge but also an opportunity if you create a fertile, safe environment.”

Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, also found the diversity exercise of bringing unlikely groups together “one of the great learnings of how diverse views [including cross-function and -category] create amazing ideas.” Davis noted that some of the golf teams included employees who had never met before. “It really created an even more robust conversation about ideas and innovation and how to look at opportunities or challenges and how that comes together to create an even more exciting solution.”

Nike has, in fact, licensed and repackaged the Medici principles into a global program for the entire organization in more than 40 countries called Diversity and Innovation: The Medici Effect, says Gina Warren, Nike’s vice president of global diversity and inclusion.

“It’s a four-hour experience that we have made our signature experience for all Nike teams around the world. It has allowed teams to be much more intentional about why it’s important to have a diversity perspective on the team and why the teams need to be working in an inclusive environment that welcomes diverse perspectives and ideas, and it’s all for the sake of innovation.”

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