Why do some nations and geographic regions seem to be hotbeds of creative entrepreneurship and economic growth, while others remain innovation laggards? In his book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Harvard professor David Landis writes, "If we learn anything from the history of economic development, it is that culture makes almost all the difference."
They now recognize, as The Economist puts it, that innovation is "the single most important ingredient in any modern economy." But how exactly can a country create the cultural and constitutional conditions for innovation to flourish? In short, how do you build an "innovation nation?"
In my travels around the world, I`ve been asked this question many times, in places as diametrically opposite as Sweden and Saudi Arabia, or Moscow and Madrid. Some nations and regions, of course, are already blessed with a culture that is predisposed to innovation. What we usually find in these countries is a historical openness to ideas from all around the world, a lot of cultural diversity, a high degree of connection and conversation, a deep-seated belief that one can build a better future for oneself and one`s family - and ultimately one`s community and country - through education and hard work and by seeking entrepreneurial opportunities, and a tendency to encourage or at least tolerate free thinking and contrarian views.
On the other hand, there are national cultures that seem to find innovation much more difficult. I would argue that these tend to be in countries or regions that have an "inward focus", where there is little interest in ideas that come from outside. Generally, they are also cultures that discourage free, independent thinking; where kids are taught at school to "know their place" and not to question anything.