Why Are Americans consistently more Innovative and Entrepreneurial?

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“What makes America so much more entrepreneurial and innovative than India?” That question has been in my head for many years now.

Obvious recent contributions including FacebookTesla, and the immortal giants, GoogleAmazon and Apple come first to mind. But the world we live in stands witness to enduring American inventions – the airplane, credit card, transistorlaser, the computer and internet; with hundreds of inventions in-between.

Firstly, contrary to popular belief, the US is not the most innovative country in the world. They ranked 5th in 2015’s Global Innovation Index by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Results by other bodies too put them in a similar ranking.

Two factors seem to distinguish them from the rest. They are perennially innovative across all fields of work. And, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in the veins of its masses. For nearly two centuries, it has been one of the most fertile environments for creativity and innovation. This has resulted in the most brilliant minds from the world over to steadily gravitate to it. To Innovate. To Create.

YouTube (albeit American), is filled with the ingenious creations of their average people. Remote-controlled cars, planes, and numerous vehicles and even other unimaginable contraptions built by average individuals like you and me. What makes them impressive is that they aren’t built out of a kit, but using even scrap or materials found around the house. And their customer experience practices have delighted and inspired the world, and set global benchmarks.

So while we can brush-off some inventions as exceptions; what explains the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the common American?

In my quest to find something that the average American might knowingly or otherwise be doing differently to induce this trait, I quickly concluded it had nothing to do with their super-sugar coated cereals or microwave dinners.  😀

Heredity too didn’t seem like the answer, given the large mix of world population that goes in and out of the US. So how do they maintain a consistent level of creativity even with the influx of foreigners? Is something happening in the background, that nurtures creativity levels?

‘What else are they doing, that subtly but consistently fuels creativity?’

I felt the answer might lie in the power of the right brain. We know the right brain is the seat of creativity. And which in turn controls, and is stimulated by, the left side of our body. So are Americans doing something differently, that might be stimulating innovation?

Left-handed people for one, have been known to have a higher probability of being more creative than right-handed ones. Quoting someone anonymous on Quora, “Lefties have a greater chance of being a genius- or having a high IQ. Researchers aren’t sure why, but those who are left handed seem to make up a disproportionately large part of those who are highly intelligent. For example, 20% of all Mensa members are left-handed.”

But they comprise only about 10% of the world population.

So, assuming a normal distribution of left and right handed people across the world, 10% Americans aren’t conclusive proof of their general creativity. Even if that 10% included the left-handed John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Bob Dylan, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tina Fey. Because, for each of them, there have been other innovators, creative people and entrepreneurs who are right-handed. So while left-handedness might give one an edge, what explains its considerable prevalence in the other 90% too?

Still stuck on the right brain and the left side of the body, there seemed to be sufficient studies concluding that when right-handed people use their left-hand more, it tended to improve general creativity. To what degree, is a great topic for a debate at another time. But if using the left side more fuels creativity, is there something Americans do differently than Indians, that might help?

Then a possibility struck. Can their driving give them some edge in being more creative? As absurd as it might sound, read me out.

About 65% of the world population today, lives in countries that follow a right-hand traffic rule (i.e. where you drive on the right side of the road, and oncoming traffic moves on your left), as opposed to 35% in countries that follow a left-hand traffic rule. India, influenced by the British, follows a left-hand traffic rule.

Right-hand traffic countries tend to have left-hand-drive cars, and in turn, use their left hands more, especially for continuous adjustments of the steering wheel. Opportunity to rest the elbow on the side of the door makes that a preferred hand from comfort and proximity perspectives.

But that would mean that 65% of the world should on average, be at least slightly more creative than the others.

So then the only remaining variable would be –how many people in each of those countries drive regularly? That brought me to the vehicular density of countries. Here too, the US seems to have the edge (whether for the good or not). It has the 3rd highest motor vehicle density in the world; that’s 797 vehicles per 1000 people! The first two spots are taken by San Marino and Monaco. Both of whom seem irrelevant to our discussion, given that these city-states have populations under 40,000 people. This makes the US the largest nation with the highest vehicular density. Contributors are the lack of a developed public transport systems outside of major cities, and cheap fuel.  This results in Americans driving cars for everything from buying groceries from nearby, to traveling to other cities and states.

So is it possible, that frequent use of the left-hand while driving, in a country with the highest motor vehicle density, contributes to their innovation and creativity in general?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if driving of left-hand-drive cars is ‘the’, or even ‘a’ contributing factor at all, to explain their creativity, innovation or entrepreneurial spirit.

However, in the absence of other conclusive factors, doesn’t it beg another look?

 

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Image: source

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Moral Dilemmas from the Future

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Moral Dilemmas from the Future

Image: source

I came across this extremely interesting article around the future of healthcare that gives us a peek into the near future. It also highlights increasing complexity and moral high seas that businesses need to, and will have to navigate around in the years to come.

Google has been able to predict regional flu trends since 2008 or earlier. Most people share with her (I refer to her as Ms. Google) more than they share with close friends and family. And thanks to this, Google has been getting increasingly good at predicting if someone may have a certain condition or illness. It is based on their searches and perhaps the mention of some symptoms, which ordinarily might not raise any red flags.

This article basically talks about whether, in such a situation, Google should, or is, responsible to tell the user that they might be ill, or just go about with business as usual, providing search results and nothing more.

Most of us might have a direct, personal answer to the question. Either a ‘most certainly Google should tell me’, or ‘hell no!’. The problem however, gets more complicated with the large number of false positives (false alarms). That,  and the astronomical medical costs associated with those false alarms. Not to mention the number of angry users who might perhaps consider suing Google for medical expenses. And all because of incorrect information it might have given them out of a moral obligation it may have felt towards them.

The problem (and article) doesn’t stop with Google. It also touches upon an older but extremely important topic about self-driving cars and choices they’d make on our behalf. Imagine a situation where you, the owner of an autonomous car, are being driven. You are heading toward a group of people who suddenly jump irresponsibly onto the road. Would you rather your car hit them, or manage to avoid them, but end up hitting a wall that kills you? Or the choice your car might one day make between one of two similar, unavoidable eventualities.

Coming back to the Google problem, its accuracy has only been getting better with time and searches. It deals with everything from user reactions to health insurance coverage, etc. All of which make it a very interesting and complex question to answer.

You should really read this one!

Here’s the article link.

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To Drive or not to Drive?

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50 Years of the Mini, Goodwood Revival 2009

Image: source

To Drive or not to Drive?

There was an extremely interesting article on Business Insider recently about the future of driving. Transport saw one huge jump when horses as modes of transport were replaced, barely a century ago. And now. we are at another crossroads. The big question is about whether to replace the driver or not.

The article approaches the subject of drivers and cars themselves, from multiple points of view. One, being that of Morgan Stanley’s auto analyst who sees a future that works on an Uber kind of model, where you and me don’t own cars, but merely use them as a service when needed.

The next view comes from that of a Citi analyst, who feels owning cars is an irreplaceable part of our lives. Even if, for most part, they’re just sitting there doing nothing.

Into the mix, come companies of the future, like Tesla and Google. Google, with their Google Chauffeur (the software that runs their self-driving cars), seems future-safe, whichever direction the future approaches from. And Tesla, which might seem to prefer selling cars to individuals, with the total numbers being more than it being offered by companies as a service. Especially with the company’s ginormous capacities for manufacturing rechargeable batteries. When looked at in totality, reducing future car transport to a service might not be too bad after all.

While this shift will take some time to come, what, according to you, might be a better way to go forward? Would it be the Uber kind of model, where you can hire a car (self-driving or otherwise)? Or would you rather own the car, and the costs that come with it, and use it only for a fraction of the time?

You can read the whole Business Insider article here: Tesla is in the middle of a debate about the future of driving

Mercedes self drive

Image: A Mercedes-Benz self-driving prototype

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Big Bizarre

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I dropped into the Big Bazaar store for a bit last night (not out of choice, if you must know). But I must say, they’ve really re-done the place, in a good way. Impressive, must say. The section as soon as I entered, was for clothes, and it  looked like a section at the more popular multi-brand stores around. If you remember the old Big Bazaar, you’d know the difference.

Anyway, I was walking around when I happened to glance up a random t-shirt on display. And the label on it read a brand called “Spunk”.

Now isn’t that a bit of an odd name for a brand of clothes and shoes, by any measure of imagination and humour? I thought it was amusing as such, assuming it to be a Big Bazaar brand itself. It got more interesting when I  looked up later and found a “Made in USA” brand of mostly spandex clothing that went by the name Spunkwear.

While I’m not sure if it’s the same brand that’s retailing at Big Bazaar and online at FutureBazaar, on Zazzle, and so on, it still is a strange name.

Especially since the  definitions of spunk vary from ‘spirit’ to ‘semen’.

 

 

 

Google, Search Better

Reading Time: 1 minute

Google, Search Better

You know how you sometimes Google something, but the results are random or irrelevant.

And you know how Google has the +1 recommendation option on search results.

Now, here’s a suggestion that should be considered for Google, shopping sites, and those offering search directly via Google. How about an option similar to the FB ‘Like’ button? Individuals who have entered a search, can click on results that they feel do not match the search query. That way, after a listing hits a predetermined number of ‘clicks’ on the ‘wrong result’ button, it would alert the IT/ admin folk, who could then verify and accordingly change tags, etc. to improve all future searches progressively. Alternatively, the Google algorithm could rework the search results based on user input. Even though their algorithm already factors it in some way.

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