Trust Don Smith to recommend a fascinating ‘grown up’ book that challenges conventional wisdom. The Prosperity Paradox led by Clayton Christensen is proving interesting. I’m only half way through but here are some interesting thoughts I’ve had so far:

  • Doing the same thing time and time again is good, but will at best maintain the status quo. Doing the same thing but better is also good, and will improve productivity / profit. Both of those approaches are positive and need to be continued. But for a business, or an economic area the real growth will come from doing / creating something new;
  • The ‘new’ can be found in tackling conventional wisdom and creating something for ‘non consumers’. Have a look at M-Pesa, Tolaram noodles, Grupo Bimbo bread, and Nollywood for excellent examples. 22 million Kenyans now have access to banking. Nigerians now consume 4.5bn packets of noodles every year. The Mexican company Grupo is now the worlds largest bread maker. And Nollywood makes the Nigerian film industry second only to Bollywood. All created a market from virtually zero for non-consumers that was not only good for business but had many significant knock on effects for the wider economy;
  • From a Scottish economy perspective are we just doing the same things time and time again, and trying to do them better? Many of the ‘interventions’ provided (doing more of the same) and sectors being supported (doing better by moving with the times) arguably will just maintain the status quo. Again, those approaches are right and proper, but not where the growth will come from. What genuinely ‘new’ sectors or markets are we creating that could provide wider significant economic growth? The development of the Space Hub in Sutherland is exciting, but what else are we doing?
  • The book so far draws on many examples of genuine innovations creating sustainable economic growth in developing regions. I think more mature regions have many lessons to learn from their approaches to ‘pulling’ innovation, which is different, and in their case more effective than ‘pushing’ innovation.

I look forward to some more reflections from reading the 2nd half of the book. Thanks Don

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Mark Bell

Director, Economic Development

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