Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Follow-Up: Failure & Growth in China

In previous posts, I've written about growth and failure in China and the role that both of them play in their economy and culture. One of the things that Americans tend to do when confronted with the thought that China or India will potentially (or eventually) overtake them as an economic power is to point to their lack of innovation. Mike Lord referenced this during our International Business course this past weekend, but then reminded us that many of the early American settlers made copies of everything they knew from their homeland in Europe. The easiest way to gain expertise in a new area is to copy what others have done. What you do with it from there really determines if you will create a culture of innovation, and hence a culture that can create sustainable value over the long-term.

Maybe another data point to consider is the Israeli technology markets and their level of innovation. He is a highly-educated population, that has expertise in various areas of technology, and considerable need to solve economic and cultural challenges. Put they haven't been nearly as successful as their American counterparts in creating sustainable new businesses. One proposed reason for this is their "failure is not an option" mentality in the Israeli culture. I bring this up not as a way to highlight American success, but to highlight another culture that punishes (or discourages) failure, similar to what has been discussed in the past with China.

The US still has challenges to overcome in their education systems to remain competitive in the global economy, and we should not rest on our past success. But I believe innovation and the culture we have that encourages success, failure and resulting innovation is the strength that we need to enhance. The foundation still needs to be there via math and science and creative thinking, but the culture also needs to be encouraged. It is the strength that we have which gives us the ability to overcome the population numbers that are in India and China's favor (at least in some aspects).
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