Invent, invent, invent

Invent, Invent, Invent” is today’s op-ed column of Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times. Can’t be more true. Monday Note gives an interesting overview of the inventions made during recession times: 1975, in the middle of a recession, The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) introduces the Alto, a computer featuring the first graphic user interface with windows, menus, and mouse. Four years later, Steve Jobs tours Xerox PARC and “inhales” the features we later saw into the Lisa and the Macintosh (other examples, see LayLow Edmonton’s 14 Big Businesses That Started in a Recession”).

For those that have been laid off, there is time to finally advance ideas that never came to fruition while busy at work. For those that work in a large corporate environments and are in fear of being laid off it’s time to think about starting your own company, doing what you though you were good in, finally working out that innovative idea you had, but never had time to follow up on. People are looking to improve themselves to compete in a tougher job market.  They become acutely more aware of their own presentation and appearance, viewing the world as a more competitive, rather than a friendly place.

You will probably be familiar with the oft-quoted comment by Gary Hamel of Harvard University: “Every CEO will at least give lip service to the idea that the world is moving faster and that we need to do a better job at innovation. But if you go into an organization and ask people to describe their innovation system, you get blank looks. They have none.” That’s the advantage of being a solitude “garage entrepreneur”, there is no innovation “system” other than your own drive to produce, come up with an improvement on an existing product or even something completely new, work out products details, make your first prototype, etc, file your patent application. Inventing new things brought America traditionally progress so and should be a good lesson for Europe. China is using its assets now to move from a manufacturing powerhouse into an innovative society. The country is using its nearly $600 billion economic stimulus package to make its companies better able to compete in markets at home and abroad, to retrain migrant workers on an immense scale, and to rapidly expand subsidies for research and development. And while European leaders (as well as their peers elsewhere) struggle to revive lending, Chinese banks lent more in the last three months than in the preceding 12 months.[1]

That’s what should tell us the story. For any innovative surge, we need banks to be stimulated to lend again.

[1] See NYT, “In Downturn, China Sees Path to Growth”, By Keith Bradsher, March 16, 2009

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