Frans Johansson: How Diversity Drives Innovation and Attracts Top Talent

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As CEO of The Medici Group, Frans Johansson spends his days consulting with business leaders on the value of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I), and how they support business differentiation and growth. He founded the business following the release of his 2004 book, The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation. The book drove home one key point, according to Johansson: “Diversity drives innovation. When you bring together different perspectives, you have a better shot at breaking new ground.”

Given the heightened need for retailers to rethink and reimagine their business strategies, Retail TouchPoints is thrilled to have Johansson as the headline keynote speaker for the 2020 Retail Innovation Conference, which will take place virtually October 13 and 14.

Although the book was initially released in 2004, its contents are more relevant than ever. Businesses around the world are navigating the volatility of a global pandemic, while social justice and racial inequality have come under the microscope. “The book has ended up being an evergreen book,” Johansson explained in an exclusive interview with Retail TouchPoints. “But in 2004, the world was in a different place…if there was discussion around diversity and inclusion, it was more about it being the right thing to do. But the book contributed to the thinking that we have another way of innovating, another way of creating new ideas, which comes from the diversity of our teams.”

Johansson noted that there are two global trends driving attention and overall urgency for diverse team development: The rising need for innovation and the growing need to evolve diversity and inclusion. “It’s not a coincidence that both these things are rising at the same time,” Johansson noted. “They reflect an increase in connections between people that are different, and how these connections drive innovation. But it’s coming to a head and it’s happening faster than ever now. The implication is, if you’re part of a company you’re going to have to address both of them — and it’s never been more necessary than now. We’ve gotten to the point where these two trends have converged into one and that trend line is only about to accelerate.”

Johansson’s definition of diversity encompasses four dimensions:

  • Who you are, which includes race, gender, age, sexual orientation and identity;
  • What you do, which includes job, function and industry;
  • How you do it, which refers to whether someone is extroverted or introverted; and
  • With whom you’re doing it, which is connected to the networks you build in your organization, industry and broader business community.


Organizations that address these areas can help ensure they’re creating an environment that represents the ideas and experiences of a broader, more diverse workforce. When this workforce is created and empowered to innovate, organizations are more likely to attract high-quality talent, Johansson explained. “If you’re somebody that’s from a different background, what organization are you more likely to join? The one that already has diversity,” he said. “There’s a race happening among organizations. Those that have that diversity will have an easier time attracting more talent than those that don’t.”

During his keynote at the Retail Innovation Conference, Johansson will delve deeper into the challenges that so many organizations face as they try to be more innovative, and outline strategic and tactical measures they can take to address these issues. He’ll reveal examples of organizations that have embraced the intersection of diversity and innovation to transform the way their businesses think, operate and serve customers.

 Register for an All-Access Pass to gain access to Johansson’s keynote and 50+ other sessions that expand across omnichannel fulfillment, business agility, touchless commerce, e-commerce optimization and so much more.

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