Do Strong Religious Beliefs Stifle Innovation?

27. April 2015

Date: 27-04-2015
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Japan features extremely high innovation and relatively low religiosity.

Countries that are intensely religious are typically less innovative than those that aren’t, according to a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study, titled “Forbidden Fruits: The Political Economy of Science, Religion, and Growth,” compares religious beliefs and belief in God with scientific innovation as measured by issuance of patents.

“In both international and cross-state U.S. data, there is a significant and robust negative relationship between religiosity and patents per capita,” according to authors Roland Bénabou, a Princeton University economist, and Davide Ticchi and Andrea Vindigni, both economists at Italy’s IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca.

The relationship is apparent when plotting the percent of the population that describes itself as religious against a population-controlled measure of patent applications filed by a country’s residents.
Innovation religiosityThe relationship broadly holds up when the authors make adjustments for differences in gross domestic product, rates of higher education, population and other variables. So it’s not simply a matter of more religious countries being poorer or having fewer resources, Mr. Bénabou said in an interview.

“We’re not making strong claims as to what is causing what,” he said. “The pattern is there and people can offer their own explanation to the pattern.”

The paper also delves into the types of political and scientific regimes that result from religious conviction, ranging from a Western European model with relatively unimpeded scientific progress and a declining role for the Church to a theocratic model with a political class closely allied to religious leaders who are resistant to scientific discoveries. Both feature high taxes, though spending is channeled toward different ends.

In between is the so-called American model, where scientific progress is usually unimpeded, religious beliefs are stable, the Church more likely to adapt (than resist or simply fade away) and taxes are lower. But in America, the strongly religious rich and poor have crossed class boundaries to form political alliances that seeks to block ideas conflicting with their beliefs.

“Inequality can thus be harmful to knowledge and growth, by inducing obscurantist, anti-science attitudes and policies,” the authors said. As examples, they cite restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research under President George W. Bush and tax breaks for the expansion of the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

Messrs. Bénabou, Ticchi and Vindigni are careful to note that their paper isn’t insisting that religion impedes economic growth or economic growth impedes religion.

“We focus on one key determinant of growth–science and innovation–but religion also ties into many others: general literacy, thrift, social norms, civil peace or strife, etc.,” the paper said. “Moreover, our model highlights how conflicts between new scientific knowledge and prevailing religious beliefs can lead not only to repression of the former or erosion of the latter, but also to their coexistence.”

One last note: The authors focus on traditional religion but also suggest that any overly rigid ideology can impede science. As an example, they cite the Soviet Union from the 1930s through the 1960s, when “Inquisition-like methods (forced denunciations, imprisonments, executions) were used to repress ‘bourgeois’ scientific knowledge and methodology in evolutionary biology and agronomy, with adverse spillovers onto many other areas.”

Apple Won’t Always Rule. Just Look at IBM.

26. April 2015

Date: 26-04-2015
Source: The New York Times

Apple can’t grow like this forever. No company can.

In a few short years, Apple has become the biggest company on the planet by market value — so big that it dwarfs every other one on the stock market. It dominates the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index as no other company has in 30 years.

Apple’s market capitalization — the value of all of the shares of its stock — is more than $758 billion, greater than any other company’s. Yet the Wall Street consensus is that Apple is still having a growth spurt. In fact, if Apple’s watches, phones, laptops and other gadgets and services keep generating favorable publicity — and if its quarterly earnings report on Monday is as strong as the market expects it to be — there’s a reasonable chance that Apple’s value will keep swelling. Not far down the road, it might even reach the $1 trillion level that some hedge funds predict. Read the rest of this entry »

Twilight of the gurus

25. April 2015

Date: 23-04-2015
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

The management-pundit industry is a shadow of its former self

IT IS customary nowadays for management gurus to preach that competition is fiercer than ever. Rita McGrath of Columbia Business School talks about “the end of competitive advantage”. Richard D’Aveni of the Tuck School of Business refers to “hypercompetition”. Ram Charan, a consultant and writer on management, lauds “The Attacker’s Advantage”.

Yet the management-guru industry itself seems remarkably stable. Competitive advantage is strikingly enduring, competition is far from “hyper” and the defender has the upper hand. The latest two “Thinkers50” rankings of the world’s leading management pundits, published in 2011 and 2013, show no change at the top, with Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School and the duo of Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne of INSEAD ranking first and second respectively. Two of the most prominent business books of the past few months have been retreads rather than new publications with new ideas: the tenth-anniversary edition of Mr Kim’s and Ms Mauborgne’s “Blue Ocean Strategy” and the 20th-anniversary edition of Don Tapscott’s “The Digital Economy”. It is a far cry from the glory years of the 1980s and 1990s, when “In Search of Excellence”, by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, sold 3m copies in its first four years and “Re-engineering the Corporation”, by James Champy and Michael Hammer, touched off a global re-engineering craze. Read the rest of this entry »


19. April 2015

Date: 19-04-2015

Source: FastCompany


Everyone experiences setbacks every now and then, but while some of us may view losses or disappointments as things that hinder us from achieving our goals, Heather Hans, licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and author of The Heart of Self-Love, says loss, disappointment, and tragedy can have the opposite effect, and may just be what we need in order to move up in both our personal and professional lives. 

“If you think of anyone who has achieved anything great—take, for example, an Olympic athlete—they achieve success after repeated attempts and failure,” she says. Hans argues great success never comes without a set of failures. “Struggle is the part of the story where it’s about to get good. This is why movies have these kinds of climaxes to them. Struggle and loss are usually the precursor to success,” she says.  Read the rest of this entry »

The success of family companies turns much of modern business teaching on its head

18. April 2015

Date: 18-04-2015
Source: The Economist
Subject: Management theory: Survival of the fittest

THE MODERN THEORY of the firm is the theory of the public company: obsessed with questions such as transaction costs but blind to questions of transmitting wealth to future generations. In numerical terms, this emphasis on the public company is clearly a mistake. Its triumph is limited to the Anglo-Saxon world. The economies of most of the rest of the world—developed as well as emerging—continue to be dominated by family-focused businesses that control a wide range of companies, not just individual firms.

It is also out of date. Talk of the triumph of the Anglo-American public company might have made sense in the post-war era when the British empire still had a glow and the American Century was in full swing (though family companies continued to flourish in both countries). It makes far less sense in an increasingly integrated Europe and in rapidly emerging markets. The world’s fastest-growing region, Asia, is dominated by powerful business houses run by families. Though some of these could no doubt benefit from more focus, a significant number are Schumpeterian entrepreneurs destined for success, thanks to a rare combination of risk-taking and long-termism. Read the rest of this entry »

The power of families: Dynasties

17. April 2015

Date: 16-04-2015
Source: The Economist

The enduring power of families in business and politics should trouble believers in meritocracy

“AS A democracy the United States ought presumably to be able to dispense with dynastic families,” wrote Arthur Schlesinger junior, one of America’s best-known historians, in 1947. Yet almost 70 years on, next year’s presidential election could well become a family affair. A Clinton or a Bush has been on the ticket in seven of the past nine races. Hillary v Jeb may offend against equal opportunity, but not the laws of statistics.

How, people wonder, can this happen in a country that went to war to rid itself of a king’s hereditary authority? That is the wrong question. Around the world, in politics and business, power is still concentrated in the family. Power families and dynasties are here to stay. The question is how to ensure that they are a force for good.

In politics the Clintons and the Bushes hardly count as exceptions. The leaders of Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Bangladesh are all related to former political chiefs. The “Stans” of Central Asia are family fiefs. The Gandhis are struggling in India, as are the Bhuttos in Pakistan, but the Kenyattas are kings in Kenya, a Fujimori is once again leading the polls in Peru and a Trudeau has a fighting chance in Canada. Meanwhile the lengthy catalogue of China’s “princelings”, the children of Communist Party grandees, starts right at the top with the president, Xi Jinping. Read the rest of this entry »

Connected cars: Tyred and wired

5. April 2015
April 3, 2015 6:57 pm

Andy Sharman

As the automobile becomes smarter, makers face a future where profits lie in technology more than metal
©FT graphic: Ian Bott

When Louise Chandler, a 31-year-old nurse from Surrey, hit a kerb in her Renault Clio in July 2013, it broke the rear axle, sending her spinning across the road and setting off the airbag. Moments later, she received a phone call. It was her insurer.“It was surreal,” she says. “I was all shaken up, had just been hit in the face and could not understand how on earth my insurer knew what was going on.” Read the rest of this entry »

New research hints at ways of making meetings more effective

3. April 2015

Date: 03-04-2015
Source: The Economist: Free exchange
Subject: Meeting up

WORKING life often seems like an endless sequence of tiresome meetings. Catch-ups, kick-offs and reviews litter the calendars of most professionals. Effectiveness around the conference table can determine success in almost every career. Chief executives spend a third of their time in pow-wows of one sort or another, by one estimate. Monetary policy is usually set by committee; juries deliberate behind closed doors before voting. Yet despite our reliance on meetings, most decisions made by committee are subject to serious and pervasive bias.

In 1785 the Marquis de Condorcet, a French mathematician and philosopher, noted that if every voter in a group has a better-than-even chance of choosing the preferable of two options, and if voters do not influence each other, then large groups of voters are very likely to make the right choice.* The bigger and more diverse the group the better: more people bring more information to the table which, if properly harnessed, leads to improved decisions. But ever bigger meetings imply more time spent in them: few workers would welcome that. And even with more people in the room, all manner of behavioural flaws stand in the way. Read the rest of this entry »