Is The U.S. Really Losing Its Innovative Edge?

Guest post written by Gerard J. Tellis

Gerard J. Tellis is Neely Chair of American Enterprise, Director of the Center for Global Innovation, and Professor of Marketing, Management and Organization at the USC Marshall School of Business. His forthcoming book is Unrelenting Innovation: How to Create a Culture of Market Dominance.

Gerard J. Tellis

Innovation is critical for the improvement in consumer living standards, the growth and success of firms, and the wealth of nations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. surpassed Great Britain as the world’s premier economy on the strength of its innovations. These innovations spanned a wide spectrum of industries. Innovations flourished in a variety of heavy industries such as aeronautics, automobiles, defense, communications, electricity and power generation. Innovations likewise blossomed in consumer goods and services such as soap, photography, shaving and entertainment. The U.S. also pioneered innovations in university education, land ownership, home ownership and individual rights. The U.S. lead in innovation lasted through most of the 20th century.

 

 

Is the U.S. now losing its edge in innovation?

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In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads.

An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads. (Color China Photo, via Associated Press)

By NYT   and   Published: January 25, 2012

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.

“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.

“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.” Read more of this post

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