BY THE WAY: THIS BLOG IS MOVING TO: http://www.themedicieffect.com/blog/ Next week we are having The Medici Experience in San Jose, CA. It is on September 24th, and you can find the details here. I am really, really excited about this project because it is fundamentally a way for us to create change on a larger scale – to help cities and regions grow. Grow ideas, opportunities and jobs. It is terrific that the city of San Jose will host the event and can see the need for innovation in driving growth.
The idea for The Medici Experience came out of my strong desire to avoid just having a whole lot of talks with panels and keynotes while the audience sits still and does little. Instead I am imagining bringing 100s (even thousands as we scale) of people together from different backgrounds and disciplines within a region and have them work together to unleash an explosion of transformational ideas related to their day-to-day efforts, and then move as far along as possible towards making the best ideas happen. All in one intense, fast and furious day.
Everywhere I’ve done this it’s been extremely successful – whether within corporations or for the public such as our event in Trinidad earlier this summer.
Anyway – hope you can join us! We are doing this for the city of San Jose and so the fee is a very reasonable $195 to get a chance to interact with others looking to innovate and a chance to hear me present some of the fundamental aspects of Medici Effect theory.
See below for some indication of the energy that will follow!
Volvo has delved into a new, fascinating, and intersectional, initiative. The car company’s vision is to develop a collision safety system for automobiles based on the African grasshopper’s ability to not collide when it flies in swarms.
Scientists have discovered that the African locust has a unique internal radar system composed of a giant movement detector behind the eyes. The visual input is instantly transmitted to the insect’s wing nerve cells – seemingly bypassing the brain. The detector releases bursts of energy when the locust is on a collision course, which allows it to move out of the way quickly. Jonas Ekmark, preventive safety leader at Volvo Safety Division, points out how amazing it is that these grasshoppers can fly around in a chaotic swarm, looking for food, yet never once collide with each other. He feels that the discovery about the locust’s radar system has the potential of yielding information that could be used to develop new technology to cut down on road traffic accidents. The connection between the locust’s sensory system and a potential road traffic safety system was made by Dr. Claire Rind at Newcastle University, in the UK. When asked how she came up with it, she answers that she thinks it came from her own experience as a driver and a pedestrian. Locusts are quick to react and have reliable circuits, and they can do their computations against a lot of background chatter, which is quite similar to driving a vehicle around town. And so she realized that the locust’s ability may be available in the context of road traffic safety.
Volvo safety division heard about Dr. Rind’s research, and thought it could be of use particularly in regard to pedestrian safety. The automobile company hopes to reproduce the locust’s radar system onto a computer chip, and install it inside a camera, which would compose the car’s safety system – although, so far, current hardware and software systems have proved unable to replicate the locust’s sensory system.
If I throw a few words out there such as: Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, preppy, classic, maritime, countryside, colorful fall foliage...chances are these words will evoke something within you, certain images perhaps. This holds true whether or not you’ve actually been to Martha’s Vineyard or Cape Cod, or whether or not you’ve witnessed the explosive colors of a New England fall. The fact that we perhaps know something about the place, whether it’s through reading, seeing pictures, or hearing stories about it, is enough for our imagination to start spinning. Quite often we are more open to acting on pure imagination when we are not faced with the barriers of reality that facts will pose. This phenomenon is at the core of what in literature, art, movies and design would be called romanticizing. Quite often romantic rendering comes across as phony and harmful, but sometimes, for some people, it actually kind of works... This is the story of the hugely successful Lexington Company, an entirely Swedish company (although often mistaken for American by Swedes), that embodies the so called “New England design” trend.
Lexington Company was founded in 1997, and one of the founding partners and now CEO of the company is a Swedish woman by the name Kristina Lindhe. Her ambition has been to create a New England inspired life-style brand that includes everything from bed linen, towels, pillow cases and napkins to a new clothing line. The fabrics are very much inspired by the American flag in terms of colors and patterns. Stars and stripes, for example, are very prevalent. The materials have a high quality feel and look, and the home items, bedding, and linen are always beautifully shot in authentic New England locations and presented in big luxurious catalogues. Other characteristics of this style is the mix of the perception of “American preppy” with the rustic, and relaxed country-living. Dark wood furniture is set against white-washed walls and sofas covered in starch white fabric, trying to evoke perhaps a beach-house on the Cape. The name Lexington, a historic town in Massachusetts, was chosen, one can only assume, because it creates “the right” associations.
There is only one problem, however, with this so called New England style, I don’t quite recognize it from my time as a New England resident. The white interiors, with lots of natural light are more typical of Swedish decor, and I haven’t seen stars and stripes being used that widely on linen and quilts etc. in Boston or the Cape either. I’ll agree to that there are elements of what I would characterize as typically New England that are included in this life-style concept. But it also contains a lot of Swedish aesthetics, creating a new style that is a unique blend of Swedish and American, and hence, a Swedish version of New England, where the romantic view of an area has inspired into the making of something different and new. It is perhaps the fact that Lexington has managed to integrate the essentials of Swedish aesthetics while at the same time tapping into Swedish consumers’ dreamlike notion of the American east coast, that they have become so successful.
So far one could say that Lexington is in a way “passing” for an American company. The logo, the website, the catalogues ooze Americana. In an interview in Sweden’s biggest daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, a journalist asks CEO, Kristina Lindhe, why a brand such as Lexington hasn’t dared to enter the US market yet. Lindhe answers that it is part of the plan, but the timing has to be right. “You only get one chance”.
If and when they do, it will be very interesting to see if Lexington will be able to continue presenting itself as mainly “New England” or if it will start emphasizing its’ connections to Swedish design as well. From the Medici point of view, I think this story is interesting, because it shows how a unique style, inspired by one side of the Atlantic, has developed and merged with Swedish style on the other side of the Atlantic, and managed to gain ground. The innovative aspect and the appeal to the Swedish consumer probably lies in this mix of aesthetics, even though the consumer, because of smart marketing and lack of knowledge about New England, may not always be that conscious of the mix, and accepts the style as mainly American. This life-style concept thus, both forms, confirms, and nurtures the consumer’s dreamlike notions of the east coast in a continuous interplay. And as such, the dream is kept alive...
Frans here. It’s been a bit quiet on the blogging front. We, at the Medici Group, have been hard at work with a number of different projects around the world. Many of them are coming online this year – very exciting! One of them is a redesigned website for themedicieffect.com which will launch in March. Until then we will post some very intriguing and interesting stories, often focusing on cultural intersections, that will explore how the Medici Effect plays a part all around us. First up is a story from Sandra Ljung, the Medici team's most global resident - currently living in Sweden again, about how design concepts can cross borders…
You have got to see this: The Brazilian Medici Effect Blog has been launched. Sometimes they will translate our stories into Portuguese but we will also see original efeito medici posts. Unfortunately my understanding of Portuguese is limited but it looks great and we love the fact that The Medici Effect is spreading.
Earlier we have seen how advanced technology from NASA and several other sources were used to give Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuit extraordinary qualities. Considering the outstanding performance of the product it is not surprising that this thinking spreads to other sports. Right now, for instance, there is a cool experiment (Swedish) going on with cross-country skis in Sweden. An interesting difference is that while Speedo’s swimsuit was developed at a deliberate intersection where they harnessed the skills of experts from diverse fields this idea is more coincidental. And it did didn’t come from the sport people.
When some technicians who work with the Swedish combat aircraft Gripen heard that Norwegian skiers had successfully used sandpaper instead of ski wax to prepare cross country skis they got an idea. To make the colour attach well to the surface of the airplane they use an advanced technique where they blast it with minuscule plastic balls. That way they achieve pretty much the same effect as with sandpaper but with much more precision. Basically, they realized that they could do the same thing as the Norwegians – only better. Naturally, they didn’t contact them to tell them this – the Norwegians are annoyingly good as it is. Instead they approached their countryman Oskar Svärd who is one of the top long distance skiers in the world.
The precision with which they can use this technique makes it possible to adjust the surface for different temperatures and snow qualities. They have now made several pairs of skis for Svärd. He has tested them and is really pleased with the result. He will use them this winter and if he is successful it might change the sport as well as attitudes to the Gripen project in Sweden. It is ridiculously advanced and expensive and heavily criticized. But if it can help Svärd beat the Norwegians at cross-country skiing...
Well, since it is Youtube week here on The Medici Effect Blog I want to share a video with robots inspired by animals.
The possibilities at this intersection of biology and technology seem limitless and I have written several posts based on bionics earlier. I have a strong feeling that the engineers creating these things are having a very good time and that they regard nature as an endless source of challenges.
When Frans was in Singapore recently he was interviewed by Channel NewsAsia. It is a good interview and for anyone who is not so familiar with The Medici Effect it is a very good eight minute introduction. Enjoy!
One of the first examples in The Medici Effect of the innovative power of intersectional teams is a ground breaking experiment that was conducted at Brown University in 2002; a team of researchers "eavesdropped” signals in a monkey’s brain so that it could control a cursor on a computer screen with its mind. They succeeded because the researchers behind the project came from a number of different scientific fields and this was the result of a deliberate effort to create an intersection of disciplines.
And again the breakthrough is a made at an intersection of disciplines: the researchers that were needed to make this possible represent neurobiology, bioengineering, cognition, regenerative medicine, robotics, physical medicine and rehabilitation. (I feel sorry for the monkey though...)
I first read about Bertrand Gondouinin a Metro article (Swedish) when he recently presented his electronic jacket at a virtual reality conference in Stockholm. His aim is to explore how computers may be used without the traditional tools – for experimental and artistic purposes. He has used electronic textiles in the jacket (which looks like a perfectly normal jacket) and he controls the computer by waving his arms. With his movements he can navigate through a 3D environment projected on the wall.
Gondouin is a designer in interactive visuals who really exploits the innovative power of intersections of different disciplines. This is how he describes it himself:
"My work combines three disciplines: art direction, software engineering and live performance. This scope of activities enables me to deliver responsive, environmental graphics in real-time, which creates uniquely immersive experiences."
At this intersection he seems to have a lot of fun and apparently barriers don’t exist to this visionary thinker. Considering what he has achieved it is amazing that he has no background in technology but he certainly brings new perspectives into this field since he is educated in art and has been working with live television. Check this crazy video from his first experiments with the jacket where he controls sound with arm movements or this earlier post which also includes electronic textiles.
When I saw Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers back in 2002 I was amazed, like everybody else, by the digitally animated creature Gollum. The filmmakers had achieved something extraordinary and I realized there and then that I would never again be surprised the possibilities of motion-capture technique. But I was wrong. The designers at Front make everybody surprised with their innovative design method. They make freehand sketches in the air and record the strokes with motion-capture technology. The information is then digitized into 3D models.
One of the main ideas in The Medici Effect is that if you apply existing concepts in fields where they haven’t been used before it dramatically increases your chances of being innovative. The Front design team is a very good example of that. When they placed themselves at the intersection of 3D animation and furniture design and applied motion-capture where it doesn’t “belong” it gave them originality as well as attention. Arguably, it would take some rather advanced technical breakthrough to revolutionize the way motion-capture is used for 3D animation in films or computer games but all they had to do at Front was to use the technique in a new way.
Naturally, this is not their only design method but all their work is characterized by the same open-mindedness that enables them to break down the associative barriers between fields. When I assumed that I would never again be surprised by the possibilities of motion-capture it was because I didn’t see beyond those barriers.
Like so many other European countries Sweden needs to tackle the realities of demography: The population is ageing and too few people work. Last year every working individual in the country supported 1.44 individuals who were not part of the workforce and that figure will continue to grow.
There is great awareness of this and in a new report from The Ministry of Finance the researchers investigate which groups that could potentially be more strongly represented on the labour market. Their conclusion is that the most important groups are:
Young people (16-24)
Older people (55+)
My obvious reflection is that if these insights lead to actual changes we will get greater diversity in terms of age, gender, culture and ethnicity and according to The Medici Effect diversity drives innovation. Consequently the shift that is suggested in the report will not only solve the quantitative problems of demography – it will also have a qualitative impact on the economy. A greater mix will generate creativity, innovation, business and welfare and therefore I see this as another opportunity to argue that immigration is beneficial for Sweden (or for any other country).
I just want to share another example of benefits of migration: In Nigeria immigrants from Zimbabwe have brought with them new methods and new kinds of cattle that have improved agriculture in the country significantly. It is interesting that these things still happen and that the movement of people makes a difference in such a basic way.