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Where Have All the New Ideas Gone? – Boston News

Where Have All the New Ideas Gone

Let’s explore some of the most interesting stories that have emerged from Boston business schools this week.


New Ideas are Getting Harder to Find—and More ExpensiveMIT Sloan Newsroom

MIT Sloan recently examined just how difficult is it to come up with new ideas in an age of seemingly infinite access.

A new National Bureau of Economic Research study published by MIT Sloan Professor of Applied Economics John Van Reenen, Stanford University professors Nicholas Bloom and Charles I. Jones, and Stanford Doctoral candidate Michael Webb finds that “the productivity of scientific research is falling sharply across the board” due in large part because “researchers are putting in more and more effort to sustain the same—or even a slightly lower—pace of idea generation as we experienced half a century ago.”

Van Reenen writes, “As the total amount of knowledge becomes larger and larger and larger, it becomes increasingly difficult to get to its frontier of that knowledge. It was much easier a couple thousand years ago.”

Two workarounds are to narrow the “focus of one’s studies to specialize in a very particular domain” and expand investment into research. However, both solutions arrive with their own sets of challenges, according to Van Reenan.

“In order to carry on innovating, you’re constantly working together, and it’s very complicated to get all of these people and ideas together.”

Van Reenan is concerned that government investment into scientific research is simply not enough of a high priority.

“I think a lot of the time you hear we’ll just cut the top tax rates to generate lots of innovation — I’m pretty skeptical about that in terms of the incentives you’re going to give. Both have positive effects on growth and equality. Instead of giving away $5 trillion in tax cuts, use that to invest in growth opportunities for the future.”

You can read the full article from MIT Sloan here.

No More General Tso’s? A Threat to ‘Knowledge Recombination’Harvard Business Week

HBS Technology and Operations Management Unit Assistant Professor Prithwiraj “Raj” Choudhury is set to publish a new Strategic Management Journal paper that explores the “role ethnic migrants play within the work force,” as well as the “new technologies in countries where they’ve migrated.”

Choudhury points to examples throughout history like Soviet mathematicians who “came to the United States in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union; far ahead in fields like partial differential equations and symplectic topology, they helped their American counterparts solve otherwise intractable problems,” American Chinese cuisine staples like General Tso’s chicken and chop suey, and Indian immigrants who brought double-entry bookkeeping to South Africa in the late 19th century.

Choudhury uses ‘The Ethnic Migrant Inventor Effect: Codification and Recombination of Knowledge Across Borders,’ written with HBS doctoral student Do Yoon Kim, as a launch pad to discuss immigration through the lens of knowledge production rather than job creation—or absorption.

“Instead of seeing migrants through the lens of whether they create jobs or not, we should view migrants as carriers of knowledge—knowledge that could be further recombined by locals. If H1-B was scrapped, or Europe stopped admitting skilled migrants, the knowledge production of the global economy would suffer.”

Choudhury adds, “It’s not only a loss to the firms, it’s also a loss to local workers, who will lose out if they do not imbibe this knowledge from migrants. I would turn the debate on its head and say, it’s not about destroying or creating jobs, it’s about participating in or losing out on creating knowledge.”

You can read the full article here.

Coffee BreakSawyer Business School

MassChallenge, the self-described “most friendly start-up accelerator on the planet” recently selected WarmUp Protein Coffee, a “coffee-cum-protein beverage” developed by Sawyer Business School alum James Testa (BSBA ’17) as part of Sawyer’s “Crowdfunding the Venture” class.

Testa writes about how getting rejected from last year’s competition sent him back to the drawing board and enabled WarmUp to stand out among the other 1,600 applications. In a recent interview with his alma mater, Testa says:

“I spent all year getting the product out there, building the business, and getting some sales. So when I went back to MassChallenge this year, I feel like I had a much better grasp of my business and who my customers were. And because I had real sales, I was a lot more confident about it. The proof of concept was already there.”

MassChallenge start-ups “get free office space, connections to industry-specific mentors, advice from venture capitalists, and the chance to win up to $1.5 million to help launch a business.”

You can read the full article here.

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