I was recently introduced to Bruce Bachenheimer, Clinical Professor of Management at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business and Director of the University’s Entrepreneurship Lab. I think it’s fair to say that Bruce lives and breathes innovation and entrepreneurship. A serial entrepreneur himself, Bruce is an expert on the important role that innovation plays in business growth.
In a lengthy interview, Bruce outlined some of the reasons he’s passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship. Here’s a brief summary of what he said in the interview:
“As Thomas Friedman says, the world is flat. Countries compete on a much more equal basis than in the past. On a national level, the only sustainable competitive advantages come from innovation.”
“Competing on the basis of low labor costs is a temporary strategy. It’s a race to the bottom and it won’t keep you competitive in the long run. Nations with high standards of living, low unemployment, trade surpluses and general prosperity tend to compete on innovation.”
“For a while, it seemed like Japan’s strategy of competing on the basis that manufacturing efficiency was a winning strategy, but the gains they achieved disappeared as competition drove down prices, which benefited consumers, not manufacturers. It was a temporary victory, and now they’ve been in a recession for nearly two decades.”
“If you look at countries that are leaders in innovation – the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and the countries in northern Europe – you see high levels of education and high levels of entrepreneurship. In Japan, for example, the culture and regulatory system make it very difficult for entrepreneurs to succeed. If you are an entrepreneur in Japan, you face a lot of barriers. As a society, Japan is very intolerant of failure. That fear of failure stops people from taking risks, and you need to take risks to succeed as an entrepreneur.”
“On the other hand, countries like the U.S. and Israel are much more tolerant of failure – especially when you fail on someone else’s dime. Failure isn’t exactly a badge of honor, but it’s not the end of the world either. In the U.S., when someone’s business fails, people are likely to say, “That guy really learned a lesson. He sure won’t make that mistake again.” People in entrepreneurial cultures tend to see failure as a learning experience.”
“Company cultures have a similar impact on innovation. Companies that encourage innovation and tolerate a certain amount of failure are more likely to be the serial innovators.”
I love how Bruce puts innovation and entrepreneurship into context, and shows us the impact of innovation on multiple levels. Bruce also advises his students to think like innovative entrepreneurs when envisioning their career paths. In today’s rapidly evolving and ever-changing economy, I think that’s excellent advice for all of us.