As we continue to recover from a global recession and look to the future, it’s imperative that we build more entrepreneurial-driven academic institutions. Not only will this provide the foundation for much-needed innovation, it also will strengthen economies by providing jobs and fostering sustainable growth in enterprises.
Lessons can be learned from universities around the world about accelerating entrepreneurship. They can provide the model for how to create clusters of commercially successful startups around research-driven institutions. However, the success of that model largely depends on the role of the business school within that university setting.
I was recently invited to give a talk for Knowledge Stream in Russia about entrepreneurship and cross-cultural issues. This is similar to a Ted Talk, but I spoke via videoconference from Cambridge to a live audience in Moscow. There is growing interest in entrepreneurship in Russia, especially among younger people, but it’s still a very new and emerging area. In fact, Russia is one of the countries with the lowest entrepreneurial intention rates. The request for a talk on this topic was encouraging.
I began my talk highlighting some of the trends worldwide in entrepreneurship. I analyzed many studies to identify these trends, but one of the most useful was conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. According to GEM, we’ve seen a big increase in early-stage activity since 2011. In 16 developing economies, it has increased about 25%. Three developing countries in particular saw above average rates of growth in terms of new startups: Argentina, Chile and China.
Intent to start a business is highest in emerging economies. People in those areas are most likely to see opportunities and believe in their ability to start a business. They hold entrepreneurship in high regard. Expectations to start a business are also higher in certain developing economies like China, Chile and Brazil. Interestingly, those measures tend to fall as countries rise in economic development.
It is a basic tenet of economics that regulations almost always have unintended consequences. While Adam Smith may have been one of the first to understand this, he could not have possibly foreseen the morass of expensive and unwanted consequences that could come from conflicting emission and fuel standards enacted by the state of California and federal programs, such as for greenhouse gases and Corporate Average Fuel Economy.
Both the state and federal regulations have worthy goals: to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions and lower petroleum consumption. Yet taken together, the federal standards effectively cancel out the California standard. Instead of promoting fuel reduction as intended, the California standard allows for the production of less-efficient vehicles, while facilitating a massive transfer of cash via credit trading. It also forms a de facto industrial policy that sends us down a path toward electric vehicles that may or may not be the best technological or environmental choice for the future.
Works councils — elected bodies representing all workers in a plant, both blue and white collar — are acclaimed as one of the best, most innovative features of Germany’s labor relations system. They have been shown to enhance efficiency, adaptability and cooperation. By supporting the use of work sharing (agreeing to reduce everyone’s hours rather than laying some people off), for example, these councils helped Germany experience less unemployment during the Great Recession and a faster, more robust recovery since then.
For years, labor law, labor economics and labor-management researchers like us have urged experimentation with works councils in the United States. Volkswagen and the United Auto Workers are proposing to do just that at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant. This could be a watershed in American labor relations, one that rejects the outmoded adversarial doctrines that have built up in U.S. labor law and practice. And it signals management and labor support for a new model of cooperation and partnership.
Unfortunately, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and others are opposing this effort by arguing that such cooperation would violate U.S. labor law’s 1935 ban on sham or “company” dominated unions.
A comparison of German and American labor law makes it clear they are dead wrong.
Concern is mounting that the venture-capital model might be broken. Returns have been relatively poor in the past decade. More importantly, perhaps, the innovation outcome has been somewhat disappointing. As PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel complained, “We wanted flying cars; we got 140 characters.”
One key reason for this might be the way venture-capital funds are typically structured. Such funds have been organized for decades as limited partnerships, raising commitments among external investors to be invested and returned within 10 years.