BusinessWeek recently asked several of the presidential hopefuls from both parties questions on the topic of innovation. BW started by asking how each candidate defined the word innovation (the definition of which I’ve posted on several times, as have others), and then moved on to platform issues on innovation.
Probably not surprisingly, I was underwhelmed by the insight provided by the responses.
The most interesting answers given were their definitions of innovation. I’ll start with what I thought was the best response:
Innovation is the creation of something that improves the way we live our lives.
A pretty good layman’s answer to the question. It includes the key elements of creation/creativity and the necessity for that improvement to provide value of some sort.
The rest of the Democrats' responses were:
Innovation…will be key to creating new jobs and rebuilding class prosperity.
No argument from me on this. It’s reminiscent of thoughts on innovation by Joseph Schumpeter. It’s not a definition, though.
Innovation means taking impossible tasks and turning them into reality.
Not a bad attempt. Luckily for those of us working on innovation generation, innovation does not actually require overcoming impossible tasks.
The American Dream is a belief that we can make tomorrow better. Innovation powers that dream.
Hmmm. I’d say the American Dream for most people is powered by hard work, skilled labor, initiative, and ambition. I’m guessing that one can almost substitute any noun for innovation in Richardson’s response when asked about something of value: “lower taxes power that dream,” or “education powers that dream.”
Now for the Republicans:
America can meet its challenges through innovation…low taxes stimulate growth [and] spark innovation.
Good job staying on Republican-point by bringing the topic of low taxes into this non-definition of innovation.
Innovation is fueled by risk capital, skilled workers, incentives for entrepreneurs, a light regulatory framework, and open access to markets.
Not a definition either, but I like his attempt to define what is needed to create innovation. Proper education needs to be added to his list, though. I’ll actually blog on what I mean by this soon.
Innovation and transformation have been at the heart of America’s success from the very beginning.
Not sure why he threw “transformation” in there, but not a bad sentiment. Like Richardson’s response, though, this really is a catch-all response that can express support for practically anything that a questioner is asking about.
What we need is another spike in American creativity and innovation.
Thompson didn’t actually respond to any of BusinessWeek’s questions, so BW culled his responses from Thompson’s campaign material. I’ll let someone cull my response to Thompson’s quote from my previous blog posts—you can post it in my Comments section.
Overall, most responded to the question without really answering it. A sign of a great politician, I suppose.
BusinessWeek also asked each candidate how they would increase innovation in science and engineering education, green energy, and the military. Answers were consistent and predictable: increase funding for education, invest in non-oil energy resources.
Strangely, the article’s introduction stated that the candidates were further asked how they would stimulate innovation in R&D and how they would develop better ways to measure innovation, yet the only reply printed was Richardson’s response to measuring innovation: “track the extent to which federal R&D dollars spent at universities result in commercial products.” Not a good response: commercialization of university research is not really a good indicator of a society’s innovation creation. Also, Richardson would be sadly, sadly disappointed in the low number measured if his suggestion were attempted.
The article lists who (apparently) are the “Innovation advisors” to each candidate. I found this interesting for some reason—providing a peek behind the curtain, I suppose. Clinton’s is Tom Kalil, the Chancellor for Science&Technology at UC Berkeley. Obama’s has a couple Bay Area internet heavy hitters: Lawrence Lessig, Marc Andreessen—no wonder he had the best definition of innovation. Giuliani’s includes VC titan Kleiner Perkins (Al Gore’s new gig)—the VC connection explaining Giuliani's focus on financing innovation in his definition. Romney’s includes the dean of the Columbia Business School.