By Steven Stralser, Thunderbird Professor
I’m in Geneva teaching Thunderbird Executive MBAs…we just spent an afternoon at WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) for a briefing and presentation by Tamara Nanayakkara (SME Director) and Cathy Jewell, (Senior Information Officer)
One of the interesting—and concerning—research findings our WIPO hosts shared is the fact that the US is falling behind as the innovation leader among well-developed global economies.
In a similar study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and The Manufacturing Institute (MI) concluded among 110 countries, the U.S ranked eighth in innovation leadership. Singapore topped the list, followed by South Korea and Switzerland.
This deflates the conventional wisdom that, while manufacturing may be moving to China, the US can maintain its global economic competitiveness simply via its innovation engine, in fact, the Asia region is revving up their innovation engines, while the US is downshifting and losing its innovation momentum.
To regain its “innovation mojo” here are some things that U.S. companies may want to think about:
1) Seek innovation at the margins of the organization—rarely is “real” innovation uncovered at the Home Office…the reality is, innovation is more likely to be found at the branch offices or service centers of an organization…for instance, not much innovation will occur in the 43rd story corner office at 63rd and Lexington in Manhattan and more likely to take place at the branch office at Main Street and Oak, in Fargo North Dakota.
2) Take a page from Anthropologists — who are trained to respect, and learn, from studying culture, behavior, and importantly, observation in situ, vs. robo-call surveys and quantitative methodology. Watch, and listen to your customers for valuable insight into how they use your products, and to better understand innovation they are seeking.
U.S. companies need to think more globally about innovation of their products and services…when US companies are crossing borders with their competencies and innovation, US companies will regain leadership and competitiveness in an increasingly global economy.
Steven Stralser Ph.D. is a clinical professor with the Walker Center for Global Entrepreneurship at Thunderbird School of Global Management. He teaches courses in Innovation, Business Planning and Global Entrepreneurship. Dr. Stralser is the author of MBA in a Day.