December 16, 2009
Contributed by Anand Chhatpar, CEO, BrainReactions LLC http://www.brainreactions.com
A couple of years ago, BrainReactions brought senior executives from developing countries in Asia, South America, and North America together in Boston and Silicon Valley to learn from some of the top innovators in America as part of our Innovation Trip program. The idea was based on the observation that India has access to thousands of engineers, with the same engineering resources online, and even the same engineering text books used in universities as in the U.S., and yet Indian engineers are not able to produce the same innovations in India that take place in Silicon Valley. Google has a number of Indian engineers and even an Indian-American investor, but this innovative company was not created in Bangalore. It was created in California, U.S.A. Our belief is that this phenomenon is due to the ecosystem that exists here in the United States.
Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, re-iterated this same belief on the Charlie Rose show recently. Buffett has been a guest on the Charlie Rose show several times, and he is always insightful. His most recent interview in November 2009 was no exception. You can view the complete interview if you search for “Warren Buffett” on http://www.charlierose.com
One of the most inspiring parts of the interview was Buffett’s firm belief in America and how the American system fosters innovation by “[unleashing] more of the human potential.” In Buffett’s own words, “And what does that? Well, a rule of law helps. A market system helps. Equality of opportunity helps. All of these things that are still a fundamental part of the American system. As a matter of fact, the American system is now better than it was a couple of hundred years ago, because until the 19th Amendment, we’ve had half the talent in the United States that wasn’t entitled to do much. So we’ve got a great system.”
Buffett’s belief in America’s innovation system was further explained by him later in the interview as well. He mentioned the recession in the early 1980s, when nobody would have guessed that during a time of 10% unemployment in the country, two young entrepreneurs named Bill Gates and Paul Allen would be working in Albuquerque creating an innovation that would become a big part of our future. Similarly, who would have guessed in the early 90s that dropouts from Stanford would create Google, arguably the most powerful company in the world today. Buffett believes that the American innovation system will continue to create innovations and millions of new jobs in the future.
It is interesting to think about how Buffett’s 3-point American innovation system would apply inside your company if you wanted to unleash more of your employees’ potential. Have you created rules within the firm that help innovation? Have you created a market system for good ideas within your company with the right rewards in place? Furthermore, have you provided equality of opportunity for everyone in your company to innovate openly, or is innovation isolated to your R&D group? I hope you give this some thought while designing your company’s innovation system.
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