What's the Big Deal About Innovation Ecosystems?
Writing in the current issue of Forbes contributo Victor W. Hwang asks:
"Why should we give a damn about ecosystems?" It's a question worth asking, Hwang says, noting that "For entrepreneurs and innovators slogging away building real companies and inventions, the whole thing seems so abstract, so remote."
Below is an abstract of an essay Hwang wrote for his firm's Global Innovation Summit, which happens next week in Silicon Valley (www.innosummit.com) and which he calls our “Davos for doers.”
"We have already confirmed over 300 people from 40 countries. This essay is my attempt to step back, and look at where we are in the broad historical arc of economics, culture, and politics. It’s more than just about innovation…"
Why Rainforests? Why now?
The importance of innovation ecosystems at this moment in history
By Victor W. Hwang
On the surface, there is solid reason for rejoicing.
Human civilization, when viewed across the span of history, is thriving. The last decade has seen fewer deaths from war than any decade in the past century. Empirical evidence suggests that, when viewing the world in aggregate, standards of living have continued to increase steadily since the Industrial Revolution. Since 1820, per capita income worldwide has risen more than eightfold. And the macro-trend lines for human welfare are still pointing up.
These mega-sweeps of history are so complex that there are inevitably countless causes at work. We know that science, technology, and innovation must be a major cause, as our civilization makes useful products and services ever more efficiently. The robustness of democratic freedom is also part of the answer. Dictatorships continue to fall, and common people have their voices heard more and more in how they want to be governed, which means much less violence by the state against the individual. Free market capitalism is another part of the answer. Unleashing people and enterprises to grow and compete freely has been the equivalent of unshackling billions of stallions to burst from the racing gates.
Yet, at the same time, we are compelled to stand athwart human history, and declare that something important, something big, is still missing.
We see manifestations of the Big Missing, but it’s hard to see the thing itself. The financial crisis of 2008 was such a manifestation. How could so many so-called sophisticated investors, who had every right to say “NO” to buying mispriced financial assets, still end up buying them, destroying each other, and nearly bringing down the world’s financial sector with them?