skip to main content

Entrepreneurship Trumps Innovation

I am very concerned about America's future for many reasons, but here's a big one: The country's leadership has a misguided understanding of what will get us out of the current economic mess. While leaders understand that America is in an all-out global war for good jobs, they think the key to competing and winning is innovation. "Jobs will come from innovation," many of them seem to say, "so let's bet the country's future on that."

They're wrong. A great innovation is wonderful, but it has no value whatsoever until it creates a customer. For a recent example, look no further than the Internet, which was a brilliant, U.S.-government-sponsored innovation. We wouldn't even be talking about the Internet today if America's great risk-taking entrepreneurs hadn't turned it into a colossal economic engine, creating millions of customers and jobs, and changing our lives. One of the great economic bull runs in history was spurred by entrepreneurs commercializing the Net.

The bottom line is this: Entrepreneurship matters more than innovation and America's leaders really need to know this.

Now, sometimes people will say, "Well, innovation and entrepreneurship are the chicken and the egg." Wrong analogy. Innovation and entrepreneurship are the cart and the horse, and entrepreneurship is most definitely the horse. The cart that is innovation just sits there until it is harnessed to a great business model and a supremely talented entrepreneur.

Right now, I see America as the best in the world at intellectual development, and we're highly intentional about this. Our country has tests to find stars at early ages and enroll them in accelerated programs -- first high school and then scholarships to the best university system in the world. This works, and it has led the United States to be a global leader in innovation.

But America must become even more intentional about developing entrepreneurship. This would mean finding high-potential entrepreneurs at a very young age, testing them, and building rigorous entrepreneurial curriculum through high school and college, with world-class internships and mentoring programs. Until America does this, its economy will never again grow enough for the country to remain the leader of the free world.

Originally posted on LinkedIn. Follow Jim Clifton on LinkedIn's Influencer network.


Jim Clifton is Chairman of Gallup.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030