Is there anything new in innovation? In December, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Robert J. Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University, who presented his opinion that the future of economic growth in the U.S. is bleak, even though we have achieved a 2% growth rate between 1891 and 2007. Nobel laureate Edmund S. Phelps took Gordon’s thought process even further in the New York Times when he commented that less innovation has widened inequality in the United States.
These dire predictions may have caught the attention of the White House as President Obama commented in January that, “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.” He laid out a challenge for the U.S. to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the world. Of course the government’s solution is to throw more money at the problem in the form of corporate partnerships for research and development.
But corporate America isn’t much better at the innovation game. When faced with the challenge of a stagnant economy, a stale product, or fickle consumers, the solution is often to gather top executives in a room for an intense brainstorming session. The problem with this approach, according to Albert Einstein, is that “we cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.“
1. ‘Architect your career and education’
The Echelon Asia Summit was kicked off with a fireside chat between e27 Editor-in-Chief Iris Leung and Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie. He emphasized the changing nature of finding a career and how it has become really fluid. With Freelancer growing rapidly in Asia, people have been hopping from job to job, building their skills and pursuing careers outside of what they studied in school.
He shared, “It is not just about finding the right career anymore, but it’s also about continuously learning and building your skill set.”
2. ‘Each country in Asia is unique’Rakuten Ventures Managing Partner Saemin Ahn sat on a panel on how to find the next Unicorn in Asia. We asked Saemin what he thought were the upcoming trends in Asia and he told us how people should stop talking about Asia like it is just one country. He emphasized how it’s important for entrepreneurs to think about the unique qualities of each country and how you’re going to expand to each one.
3. ‘You need someone to tell you it’s okay’
We got the opportunity to sit down with Cherubic Ventures Partner Tina Cheng, and she shared with us the importance of grit and being able to stay the course as an entrepreneur. She shared her own experience of running her own education startup prior to becoming a venture capitalist.
While the first two years was met with a lot of excitement along with the challenges that comes with running a startup, Tina’s startup was hit with stagnant growth during the third year. This is when she started to question if she was fit to be an entrepreneur. She said, “It’s important to have someone, maybe a mentor, to tell you that things will be okay and that you should keep pushing forward. This can be the difference between success and failure.”