Frans Johansson

Frans Johansson, CEO of The Medici Group

Diversity drives innovation. That’s the message Frans Johansson, CEO of The Medici Group, offered during his May 20 keynote presentation at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo (AIHce) in Montreal.

“If you combine ideas from different industries, disciplines and cultures, you’ll have a better chance of breaking new ground,” Johansson told the thousands of AIHce attendees who gathered for the conference’s opening session in the Monteral Convention Center.

In his high-energy, fast-paced presentation, Johansson, author of The Medici Effect: Groundbreaking Innovation at the Intersection of Disciplines and Cultures, stressed that innovation is critical to any business’s success. “The world is changing very quickly,” he said.If the world was changing slowly, there would never be any reason for you to innovate.”

Too many companies and leaders, however, become trapped in past successes and believe that logic and expertise are what will drive success. “The true insights, the true breakthroughs, happen unexpectedly,” Johansson explained. “Relying only on expertise means containing yourself firmly into only the known.”

Driving Innovation: Three Facts

Johansson offered three truths about innovation:

Fact 1: All new ideas are combinations of existing ideas. While not all combinations are ideal, the combinations that are ultimately successful always appear obvious after the fact.

Fact 2: People who change the world try far more ideas. “We are horrible at predicting what’s going to work,” Johansson said. “If we were good at it, wouldn’t have to keep trying.” What separates a true innovator from the rest of the pack is that he or she tries again and again, and perhaps fails again and again, before arriving at a successful idea.

Fact 3: Diverse teams can unleash an explosion of new ideas. “If you can connect with somebody who has a different background than yourself, will have access to more ideas,” he said.

The bottom line is that diversity drives innovation, Johansson stressed. He also offered several tips for fostering that diversity and creating a culture of innovation:

  • Find inspiration from fields or cultures other than your own. Make a purposeful effort to reach out to someone different from you and try to make new and unique connection.
  • Staff for innovation. Surround yourself with people different from yourself. Making the “logical choice” means you’re repeating the same conversations over and over again.
  • Use diversity of all kinds to find unexpected connections.

“If you wish to drive change, stepping into that intersection [of diversity and innovation] is not risky – doing the same thing over and over again can be risky,” Johansson concluded.

AIHce 2013: Diversity Drives Innovation
EHS Today