I have the privilege of visiting many countries in my work and this has given me some insights into how countries deal differently with innovation and entrepreneurship.
It also makes me wonder what really drives prosperity and the role innovation has on this. Although still thinking about this, I believe innovation driven prosperity is based on the below four key factors.
Skills / competences: You need skills and competences that fit the challenges in our fast-paced business world. Most skills and competences can be acquired through educational programs or as on-the-job training. China and India should be set for strong momentum as they crank out the most engineers and PhD’s.
Creativity: You need to apply creativity to your skills and competences in order to innovate. This is much harder to acquire compared to skills and competences as this is more of a cultural thing. Many Western countries still have the upper-hand. The big question is how fast China, India and other emerging countries will be able to apply creativity to their vast resources.
Drive: Nothing happens without drive. This makes it a bit scary to see how many Western countries have lost their drive. They have become too complacent with what they have already have gained and thus they have a very hard time matching the drive of the emerging countries. On the other hand, the emerging countries really want to climb the value-chain ladder and rather yesterday than tomorrow.
Infrastructure: I am a bit unsure how this factor stacks up with the others. An infrastructure in terms of an educational system, access to money and a stable business climate definitely is needed to maintain a status-quo, but how important is this to drive growth and prosperity?
I believe drive is the most important factor. Drive enables you to catch up fast on the factors you lack on. Creativity is the hardest factor to develop but it can be done by people with drive and sufficient skills and competences. They will find their own ways to reach their goals.
Western countries should worry about this. When emerging countries apply creativity the rules of the game can change. This will create lots of uncertainty and threats as well as opportunities. Who will stand to benefit from this? The incumbents with much to defend or the newcomers with much to gain? I know where I would place my bet.