The DorobekINSIDER Book Club: The Medici Effect


Hey there. I’m Christopher Dorobek — the DorobekINSIDER — and welcome GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER… where we focus on six words… helping you do your job better…

On GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER:

  • And the Service to America Medal goes to … The Partnership for Public Service awards program, the SAMMIES, recognize public servants who have gone above and beyond. The black-tie event takes place Monday night. What can we learn from the finalists? I talk to the Partnership’s Tom Fox about lessons learned from this prestigious awards program.

But up front:

GovLoop’s DorobekINSDIER Book Club – #ELC2014 edition: The Medici Effect

I really like smart books — anybody who has been a regular reader or listener knows that.

The Medici EffectFor the past several years, I have been playing host to something I billed as the DorobekINSIDER Book Club — it is something like the Oprah book club but more wonky and more focused on my favorite six words: Helping government do its job better. Essentially we select a book that has implications for helping government do its job better… and we discuss. While at Federal News Radio, we would have the ‘book club’ on air — discussing the book, often with the author and a handful of smart people.

We have featured some remarkable books — books that I think have really resonated and still, even today, can help government do its job better… Amazing books like Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us [read more and hear the 2010 ‘meeting’ of the book club]… Peter Sim’s Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries [read more and hear the 2012 book club ‘meeting.’]… and  The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey. [Read more and find a link to the book club ‘meeting’ here.]

I am tweaking the concept a bit this time.

You may know I am volunteering with the American Council on Technology and the Industry Advisory Council on the annual Executive Leadership Conference, one of the big government IT events of the year. At that conference, Frans Johansson will be speaking about, among other things, his book, The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures. (Johansson has also written The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World.)

So… the book:  The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures by Frans Johansson

The Medici Effect, essentially, looks at innovation:

Why do so many world-changing insights come from people with little or no related experience? Charles Darwin was a geologist when he proposed the theory of evolution. And it was an astronomer who finally explained what happened to the dinosaurs.

Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect shows how breakthrough ideas most often occur when we bring concepts from one field into a new, unfamiliar territory, and offers examples how we can turn the ideas we discover into path-breaking innovations.

From the introduction:

The idea behind this book is simply: When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas. The name I have given this phenomenon, the Medici Effect, comes from a remarkable burst of creativity in fifteenth-century Italy.

How the book club works – and how you can participate:

Starting next Monday, September 27, we will be discussing the book. I have asked a number of people — many of them involved in planning the ELC conference — will be offering their thoughts about parts of the book. Specifically, I will be asking them to be thinking about what the concepts in the book mean for government. Are there ways the concepts can help government do its job better?

I have also asked folks to comment on the posts — to offer alternative thoughts, pose questions…

Finally, on Thursday, Oct. 16 at 12n ET, a group of us will have a LIVE discussion about the book.

I hope you will join in the discussion by reading the book… and offering your thoughts and insights about what it means for government.

The DorobekINSIDER #MustRead list:

  • Top-level exodus at DHS hinders security mission [The Washington Post] An exodus of top-level officials from the Department of Homeland Security is undercutting the agency’s ability to stay ahead of a range of emerging threats, including potential terrorist strikes and cyberattacks, according to interviews with current and former officials. Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as in the federal government overall, and the trend is accelerating, according to a review of a federal database. The departures are a result of what employees widely describe as a dysfunctional work environment, abysmal morale, and the lure of private security companies paying top dollar that have proliferated in Washington since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
  • Secret Service considers a larger buffer zone around the White House [The Washington Post] After an unprecedented security breach Friday night at the White House, the U.S. Secret Service is weighing a series of measures that would move tourists and D.C. residents farther away from the complex to reduce the chances of intruders piercing its security perimeter and endangering the president. One proposal is to keep people off the sidewalks around the White House fence and create several yards of additional barrier around the compound’s perimeter. Another is to screen visitors as far as a block away from the entrance gates. The plans for enhanced security come after an incident Friday that exposed gaps in the Secret Service’s ability to secure the formal seat of the executive and the home of the first family. A man jumped over the White House fence just after 7:20 p.m. and was able to sprint unimpeded to the North Portico and enter the unlocked front door of the White House.
  • Eligible for security clearance, but not on DOD’s payroll? [The Washington Post] GAO finds that many contractors could obtain access to classified information but are not working.
  • Patent official says fraudulent time is ‘unacceptable’ and will be met with ‘disciplinary action’ [The Washington Post] Patent official says fraudulent time is ‘unacceptable’ and will be met with ‘disciplinary action’ The head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office told all agency employees on Friday that time and attendance fraud is “unacceptable” and will be met with disciplinary action, an about-face from a morale-boosting voice-mail message she left on their office phones in August, a day after The Washington Post reported on fraudulent practices. [Related: GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER: Stop Managing by Hours]
  • Bill Forcing Border Patrol Agents to Work More and Earn Less Clears Senate [GovExec]  Law would save $100 million annually and has agency and union endorsement.
  • Lois Lerner Breaks Silence [Politico] Former IRS official Lois Lerner is toxic – and she knows it. But she refuses to recede into anonymity or beg for forgiveness. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” Lerner said in her first press interview since the scandal broke 16 months ago. “I’m proud of my career and the job I did for this country.”
  • This U.S. agency says software can find the next big thing [The Washington Post] What’s the next big tech trend? This federal agency thinks it can predict the answer While industry analysts and venture capitalists argue about which nascent technology trends will stick around, one federal agency is betting its software can answer the question for them.  The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a group created to coordinate research for the intelligence community, has designed an application to identify technology that isn’t well-known today but might be in three to five years.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

Before we finish up… a few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

  • Hide Your Blackberries and Try to Look Cool — the new federal CTO’s initial reception [The New York Times]  Washington’s social set got a Silicon Valley infusion on Saturday night at a reception for Megan Smith, the just-arrived White House chief technology officer and former Google executive, at the home of the communications consultant Hillary Rosen. Al Hunt of Bloomberg News and his wife, Judy Woodruff of PBS, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Victoria Reggie Kennedy all mingled with techies, including the journalist Kara Swisher and Fred Humphries, Microsoft’s D.C. lobbyist. Ms. Smith, 49, an MIT-trained engineer who led some of Google’s most spectacular innovations, like its drone delivery project in the Australian outback, is still adjusting to life in less-than-cutting-edge Washington. She took her fourth grader to see her new government office and he was stunned by her “new” desktop computer. “He’d never seen a computer that big,” she cracked.
  • CIA performance review: ‘He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness’ and other outtakes [The Washington Post] The Central Intelligence Agency declassified hundreds of documents Thursday from its in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence. Among the articles was a compilation of quotes, apparently from the 1980s, culled from years of real CIA performance reviews where the supervisor clearly failed to fully articulate the intended critique.  A CIA employee (name redacted) who reviews all employee appraisals put together the outtakes list, adding his own witty commentary. Just a little levity in an agency responsible for protecting the homeland … and an employee with time to kill.  The misused vocab and inadvertent connotations do produce hilarious results.
  • Making Big Data Think Bigger [The New York Times] Data-driven management has so far focused mostly on increasing efficiency and productivity, but new graphic tools aim to help executives set a strategic course.



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