Risk, innovation and U.S. culture

Cultural Insights — By on July 1, 2008 at 7:37 am

The United States is renowned for having a culture that rewards risk-taking and innovation. This is so ingrained into the culture that it’s easy to forget it’s actually a somewhat unique trait that is not always so easily replicated elsewhere. Here’s a reminder of that, buried in a NY Times profile of scientist-businessman John Kao.

Before long he had written dozens of the kinds of case studies that are the basis of the school’s teaching and had organized a course on entrepreneurship, creativity and organizations.

Many of his cases were about failures — individuals under pressure, partnerships unraveling, learning through trial and error and so on. Today, Dr. Kao says failure’s relative lack of stigma is “a unique aspect of U.S. culture” that does not exist even in countries like Singapore or Finland, both clients and both, he said, “relatively hip.”

“There’s a saying in Silicon Valley,” he said. “If you haven’t gone bankrupt a couple of times you are not trying hard enough. It’s part of our national advantage.”

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