In this cross-connected world we live in today, where the costs of transmitting ideas and information are virtually zero, the leading country is the one with the most connections. In the graph below, we see that in the period between 1998 and 2007, the U.S. granted more patents than any country in the world in every year.
What is the secret recipe keeping the United States on the sustainable innovative edge?
Immigration, if well-managed, can be a powerful source of jobs, world wide ideas, and linkages between an immigrant’s new home country and his former country. In the nineteenth and twentieth-century, the U.S. absorbed immigrants and shaped them into Americans. Immigrants, who feel as a part of the nation, are crucial to a networked economy. If we look at any rankings from UC Berkeley, student award winners for the highest grade point averages are those who come from abroad. They help to create “transnational communities“ and help the U.S. maintain a presence in all corners of the global brain. As Tapscott and Williams said in their book Wikinomics, ”A world where knowledge, power, and productive capability will be more dispersed than at any time in our history—a world where value creation will be fast, fluid, and persistently disruptive. A world where only the connected will survive.“
Additionally, immigration largely contributes to important demographic advantages for the United States. While Japan, Europe, Russia, and South Korea are facing to shrinking population numbers, China, India, and Africa are struggling with overpopulation. The United States is among those nations with a well-balanced population.
The problem of an aging of population is going alongside with the shrinking employment-population ratio which badly influences the economy. Overpopulation, on the other hand, might have some advantages as we see now, in China, the world factory. Unfortunately, in the foreseeable future, China will face the problem of an aging population, too, because of their one child policy.
The geographical position of the United States makes it a global player. On the west side, surrounded by Pacific Ocean and on the east side by Atlantic Ocean, U.S. is protected from political interference and invasions. Its neighbors, Canada and Mexico haven’t seemed to have violating intentions towards the United States. Also, the widespread unity of American nationalism prevents the country from conflicts coming within the states. Climate change, for instance, is not going to hit the United States that severely or soon as it might hit South and Southeast Asia, and Africa. The geographical position of United States has allowed it to develop trade with China and Europe horizontally and vertically with Canada and Latin America.
Let’s imagine a Russian businessman doing business with an Italian wine producer. Guess what language will they use as their communication tool?
Well, English. English is definitely a global language. As we all know, Mandarin Chinese is the language natively spoken by the largest population number in the world, but English is the language which is used the most while communicating internationally. Having the opportunity to live in a country where your ideas can be transmitted instantly without any language barriers brings a huge competitive advantage. It seem to me that if you are really good in what you are doing, and, meanwhile, you live in Portugal, for example it would be very hard for you to exhibit your talents if you don’t speak at least one of these languages: French, English or German. Furthermore, if you are not a proficient user of a foreign language, little linguistic details will be lost in the translation of your speech.
Tertiary educational system
Besides language unity, another significant contributor to innovation is the American tertiary educational system. According to ARWU, (Academic Ranking of World Universities) within the first twenty top world universities, seventeenth are located in the United States. Moreover, American tertiary educational system is one of the most expensive in the world. Given this fact, in the U.S. you can find more students highly motivated towards success than in any other country. High tuitions also prevent leaking of knowledge outside the country, since graduate students need to pay back their debts.
Last night, while watching the X Factor and the Voice TV shows,, I was wondering why Americans have so many competitive shows all year long. The reason is probably not just the population size. Once they failed, it does not matter for them, because they try another time. The most important U.S. edge in innovation is cultural. The article from the Economist about European entrepreneurs sums up the problem very precisely,
“Many aspiring entrepreneurs simply leave. There are about 50,000 Germans in Silicon Valley, and an estimated 500 start-ups in the San Francisco Bay area with French founders. One of the things they find there is a freedom to fail. If your firm goes under in France, says Dan Serfaty, the French founder of Viadeo, a fast-growing business-networking website, you don’t get a second chance.” I would like to add that in some countries in Europe you won’t even get the first chance either because of your family background, or the university where you study.
The combination of decentralization, positive conflict environment and critical thinking creates a favorable climate for strong connections and innovation. The best example for this statement would be Google, a company with almost no hierarchies that supports individuals to do things on their own way.
As every coin has two sides, the potential of U.S. described above is not fully used. Firstly, inequality among people is rising within the country which is not good, because networked and developed society means social and economic equality. A study released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that the richest 1 percent of US households nearly tripled their income between 1979 and 2007 and doubled their share of the national income.
Secondly, the United Stated should put more effort to engage with Latin America more. Benefits would be on both sides. One-way remittances can turn into two ways exchange of people, ideas and businesses.
I strongly believe that the United States has the full potential to continue leading as a most connected country at least for a next decade.
Part 3: USAID – International Aid from American people or how does it really work?
And last but not least – some pictures from Boston:
At Fenway Park- Stadium of Red Sox, waiting for Jay Z and Justin Timberlake
Autor: Petra Zikmundová
This article is based on personal expierence and on the following articles: America’s Edge, Power in the Networked Century, Anne- Marie Slaughter and