It was in 1991 that Kenich Ohmae’s book Borderless World first made its impact on me and got me into trying to becoming a global executive as against a local executive. In those years, it was an attempt to try and innovate in your functions rather than product innovation.
Being a Product Marketing Manager in India, for products built and developed in the US for most part, it was innovative approaches to positioning, bringing and getting people to adopting it in India. Sixteen years later, we are now in a completely different world. A borderless, or FLAT as we call it now, yet, innovating on all fronts.
I had a chance to read excepts of the new book by John Kao, an innovation consultant, who points out in his new book, Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back, all the key advantages once enjoyed by the U.S. are nearly gone.
His strongest point is that the geography of innovation is changing. For much of the 20th century, the locus of leading-edge thinking was the U.S. and Western Europe. The rise of Asia is evening that out, redistributing the fruits of innovation: wealth and power.
From Borderless World to a Flat World to Innovation Nation to Borderless Innovation – how did things change so soon?
— Global Talent. The return to greatness of Asia’s older universities and the building of new educational institutions mean that brainpower is more evenly distributed. In addition, a giant reverse diaspora is under way as tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian scientists and engineers, many of them tops in their fields, leave the U.S. to return to their homelands to teach and work.
— Venture Capital Availability. Venture capital pools are operating all over Asia and Europe, speeding the generation of new startups. European and American VC firms have offices in most major cities in Asia and Eastern Europe. Initial public offerings have totaled $40 billion in China so far in 2007. Two of my good friends from the Silicon Valley have set up large funds to assist new ventures with a focus on India.
— Silicon Valley is no longer only in CA. The social and economic ecosystem that has been so productive in Northern California is being reproduced all over the world. Bangalore in India and Biopolis in Singapore , have found the magic once mainly centered in U.S. innovation hubs.
— Dollar is losing its foothold –We see buying power across a few nations growing and Euro gaining strength. In countries like India, which seem to be delivering the recent additions to the list of billionaires – including arguably the new #1 Mukesh Ambani.
_Lower barriers to entry – With access to top computing power, labs, design schools and JIT access to latest and most current, countries like India and China are able to bring out the best products, programs, methodologies that best help their respective economies as well as gain global footage.
–eShowcase- With the advent of ecommerce, web commerce and ability to show and tell from any part of the world, competitive innovators are able to attract potential clients and user from all across the world. Thus removing yet another barrier of travel, visa, language and possibly even capital to just show sample work.
Kao probably underplays a critical issue: the role of global corporations in innovation’s changing geography. Such companies, he suggests, “operate with increasing independence from their country of origin…. They are shipping manufacturing, design and especially R&D abroad at a ferocious pace.” So fast is this happening, says Kao in his book, that Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel (INTC ), told him his company might not even qualify as American anymore. Is this the beginning of the Borderless Innovation?
Global corporations are benefiting from this global shift. Just as the fall of communism led to a wider pool of labor and capital, so too will the global spread of innovation create a wider pool of talent for companies. Albeit originating this time from the east rather than the traditional west or to be precise – America.
But Americans are not gaining as much from all this. In the past, economic benefits have gone mostly to the first mover—the innovator, entrepreneur, or creator. Not to mention the location of the first mover – in a conducive environment like the Silicon Valley for example.
Kao notes that the U.S. already spends more per public-school student than any other major country. He wants new ways to teach, such as integrating game culture with curriculum development. What will it take for more Americans to start getting into the mainstream of engineering, design, technology, medicine instead of the now popular “liberal arts” major? Will America be able to leverage the education system and potential by collaborating with the universities and curriculum in India and other parts of Asia that is producing these brilliant, wide pool of talent? Will America start looking at the seeding stages of education while also looking at the seeding capital for Silicon Valley companies? Will we truly be able to work seamlessly in a world economy that co-exists because of the quality and value of what each delivers and not because of the currency differences and labor arbitrage?
Agood blend of the east and west has always delivered interesting progressive results. Can we potentially bet on the future by applying some innovative approaches to education and betting on the next generation to bet on the future? Is Global Mentorship an approach? Is America open minded about a novel “innovative approach”? Only time will tell…..or will it be too late?