Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Future of US Innovation

In my last post, I wanted to make a point about this, but I think I went in a slightly different direction and forgot to come back. However, I think you'll see these 2 issues as being directly related.

As I said previously, the US will actually have to re-learn how to produce things - actual, physical products - that people want to buy because those products add value to their lives. Intellectual property - designs, plans, business models, brands - and software are all good and fine, and we need to continue producing those things. However, real physical, manufactured items will employee way more people at levels of income that support a "living wage". A service economy cannot provide jobs required to rebuild the middle class as most politicians seem intent on doing (or at least say they are intent on doing).

A big part of this issue is innovation, the process of building upon existing tools, processes, products, designs, software, etc. to create new products. I fully believe that invention -- the absolute creation of new products where none existed previously -- is crucial, but innovation creates a base from which new industries are launched. Once the fundamental pieces have been invented, there is an iterative process of innovation which must occur on top of those components (building blocks, if you will) to advance an industry. Out of that process, new companies will be formed and grow. New products, hopefully offering value to customers, both domestic and foreign, will be created and launched. Invention, and most critically, innovation, are requirements of a strong economy. These 2 processes have to be RUTHLESSLY SUPPORTED by the US, at all levels of investment -- educational, financial, sociological, economic -- in order for this to work. Without these processes, there will be no new products, serving the needs of customers worldwide, being created by American workers.

Now, I don't get why this realization seems to escape so many people, but it's a simple logical extension. The bankrupt retail and service based model has proven to be empty (and it didn't help that it was built on a mountain of debt). This nation needs to to create new stuff that is useful and valuable to people around the world, not just marketing and selling vapid, useless, unimportant, trite services, brands and ideas. The willingness of the citizenry of this nation to attack this will determine the economic future of the US more than anything else.
I'm cautiously pessimistic.


Maybe it's time for a drink now. Until next time...

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