The Stagnation of Innovation

R&D Magazine has an intriguing article linking the decline of entrepreneurship with Japan’s economic woes, something that has consequences for Europe too. One of the biggest differences I often see between entrepreneurial economies like the US and China and more stagnant ones such as in much of Europe and Japan is the attitude to failure, something that is always part of the entrepreneurial process. Even in the scientific world failure is more common than success, although this seems perfectly acceptable.

“In order to have innovation, you must accept a certain amount of failure. To the Japanese, this has become taboo”

The article highlights the way that Japanese companies have become risk averse, focussing on minor improvements, or better quality control rather than big ideas ;eading tot he wonderful description of the situation

“The companies (have) grown to be a giant Gundam robot that isn’t able to handle delicate innovations, which are like ants at its feet, and may instead squash them.”

I’m not convinced that this is a purely Japanese problem and the risk averse climate  means that even many ideas described as ’emerging’ or ‘disruptive’ simply bore the pants off me. Most are tiny improvements to existing technologies, or a web based solution or app that does something marginally better than a dozen other competitors. But if you want to be truly disruptive you have to take a risk in order to achieve what Geoffrey Moore describes as “an outcome competitors are either unable or unwilling to match.”




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