One of the ideas repeated often at the World Economic Forum in Davos was that invention is not innovation. Someone needs to tell that to President Bush and his advisors because virtually all the initiatives coming out of the White House recently to boost America's competitiveness focus on spending more on science, math and technology. Don't get me wrong, we should be spending oodles more on science and math just to bring our children up to global par. But the future of the US will not depend solely on competing with Indian, Chinese and Russian engineeers and scientists. It will depend on the innovation of new ideas and processes wherever they are generated.
We are already outsourcing tons of knowledge work to Asia. Labs are already doing good invention around the world. But those companies who are succeeding are using open-source innovation to gather up all the smart stuff around the world and apply it to solving user-centric needs. The head of Infosys, Nandan Nilekani, said it beautifully in a Q&A with me when he described the critical element of innovation as "customer intimacy" and "anticipating client needs." To him "the rest can be outsourced."
So yes, let's spend more on educating our kids to be math and science-literate. But let's start spending some of those billions on design thinking and strategy, revising the B-school curriculae to emphasize creation not administration, and teaching people the basics of design and innovation.