InnovationLit: Entrepreneurship, Global Innovation, Cutting R&D, Building Capabilities, Robots, Warby Parker, & More
By Mike Wolff

The Future of Entrepreneurship: Millennials and Boomers Chart the Course for 2020; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Feb. 2015.

“By many measures, entrepreneurship is enjoying a renaissance,” begins this assessment of the current state of entrepreneurship. But it quickly turns to a series of concerns, including declining rates of business creation and weakening dynamism among high-growth firms.

In light of these concerns, the Kauffman Foundation has undertaken a New Entrepreneurial Growth Initiiative, described by acting president and CEO Wendy Guillies in a recent address as “bringing together researchers and policy experts to focus on what is needed to renew entrepreneurial capitalism.”

This report, part of the Kauffman initiative, analyzes the potential impact of “two of the country’s biggest demographics developments: the emergence of Millennials and the aging of Baby Boomers.” These shifts, the report asserts, “will, in different ways, shape entrepreneurship in the decade ahead.”

 The report concludes with questions Kauffman believes will need answering if any progress is to be made on maximizing the entrepreneurial potential of Boomers and Millennials. It hopes answers to these and other questions will come from research proposals Kauffman is launching with the report:

  • To what extent is differential quality in entrepreneurial education impacting the types of entrepreneurial outcomes?
  • How are fundamental changes in the nature of family business and intergenerational transfer of such businesses affecting trends observed in Millennials in addition to those driving new business creation?
  • How is it possible for the narratives and perceived trends with Millennials within many entrepreneurial communities to differ so much from the benchmarks documented in a variety of government sources?
  • As traditional concepts of retirement become more nuanced, how will the entrepreneurial contributions of Baby Boomers continue to change?

“The Global Innovation Index”; Peter Coy;

 Bloomberg selected the 50 most innovative countries and sovereigns on the basis of six equally-weighted metrics: R&D expenditures as percentage of GDP, manufacturing value-added per capita, number of domestic high-tech companies, postsecondary education measures, R&D practitioners per 1 million population, patents per1 million population and R&D dollars spent. Top countries in their respective categories: South Korea, Switzerland, U.S., South Korea, Finland, South Korea.

“Sometimes Cutting R&D Spending Can Yield More Innovation”; Ram Mudambi, Tim Swift and T. J. Hannigan;, Jan. 8, 2015.

Companies that cycle between exploratory and exploitative R&D perform better than companies that simply budget R&D spending as a fixed percentage. That’s the conclusion of research by Profs. Mudambi and Swift (Temple and St. Joseph’s Universities, respectively) and Temple U. doctoral candidate Hannigan. Their article focuses on Cisco, which they call one of the all-time best at “ this sequential ambidexterity, shifting between the two approaches at opportune moments.”

 “Building capabilities for performance”; McKinsey & Co. Insights; Jan. 2015.

The most effective companies at building capabilities among their employees focus on sustaining skills and linking learning to business performance, according to the 1,448 executives from a wide range of regions, industries, company sizes, and functions who responded to this online survey in May 2014. After explaining the survey results, the report concludes with the following advice:

  • Systematically identify the institutional and individual capabilities that could have the biggest positive impact on the business.
  • Design and deliver learning that addresses individual needs.
  • Align learning objectives with strategic business interests and make capability building a strategic priority.

“Guy Kawasaki’s Required Reading”; Theodore Kinni, Strategy+Business Blogs, Feb. 4, 2015.

Guy Kawasaki has become “a name brand in his own right,” writes John Kinni, S&B senior editor for books. Since leaving Apple in 1987 as “chief evangelist” and publishing The Macintosh Way: The Art of Guerrilla Management, Kawasaki has published 11 more books. So often do at least some of these show up among other people’s favorites, that Kinni decided to ask him to name and comment on his own “all time favorites.” The titles:


If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit (Putnam, 1938), by Brenda Ueland.

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Products to Mainstream Customers (HarperBusiness, 1991), by Geoffrey Moore, who “pierced my naive belief that the best product wins.”

 Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas Are Born (Penguin, 1990), by Denise Sherkerjian.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (William Morrow, 1984), by Robert B. Cialdini.

“Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement”; Seth G. Benzell, Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Guillermo LaGarda, Jeffrey D. Sachs; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper No. 20941, Feb. 2015.

Smart machines will replace high-tech as well as low-tech workers according to researchers from Boston University and Columbia (Sachs). The economy model they constructed shows that “under the right conditions, more supply produces, over time, less demand as the smart machines undermine their customer base.” Although the proper redistribution policies can ease the pain, “blunt policies, such as mandating open-source technology, can make matters worse,” they write.

“Warby Parker Sees The Future of Retail: For building the first great made-on-the-internet brand”; Max Chafkin, and Fast Company March 2015, p.79ff

Fast Company has picked eyeglasses innovator Warby Parker as its 2015 Most Innovative Company for, as its editor writes, “elevating a smart concept with dogged attention to detail.” The article explains this detail and  the “fanatical focus” cofounders David Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal have brought to bear on execution and brand. So successful have they been that many other entrepreneurs have copied the business plan. The founders’ dream—to make to make optical shops irrelevant—echoes an increasingly common goal among today’s startups.

If you liked the article view more in our May/June 2015 Newsletter

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