News > Blog

Empires of the Mind: Who Will Lead Future Tech Innovation/Invention?

Gary Beach, CIO Magazine

Gary Beach is the author of The U.S. Technology Skills Gap: What Every Technology Executive Must Know to Save America’s Future. He is featured in Gary’s Book Club on Thursday during the 2014 International CES. Be sure to hear him speak in person.
Winston Churchill once said, “empires of the future will be empires of the mind.” Sir Winston, however, never qualified what kind of minds will lead. Minds like Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison or Bill Gates? Minds that never completed college but created hundreds of billions of market cap. Or minds like thousands of higher education degree credentialed venture capitalists and corporate CEOs who lost billions running firms or tech start-ups.
It’s a thorny question with no one-size-fits-all answer.
The release of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s “PISA” examination, a triennial math/science/reading assessment test administered to over 500,000 15-year olds around the world, suggests the “smartest kids in the world” hail for Shanghai, Singapore, Japan or Finland. The United States came in 23rd in reading, 28th in science and 32nd in mathematics. A familiar position for American students for nearly 60 years.

Based on test scores pundits suggest America’s days as the world’s center of innovation and invention are coming to a close. Not so fast says University of Oregon professor Zhao Yong. Dr Yong claims results of tests like PISA simply measure the ability of a country’s student population to work hard at mastering “prescribed” content and curriculum. Moreover, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a  research partnership between Babson College and the London School of Economics, reveals there is little correlation between test scores and capacity for a person to be entrepreneurial.
My question to you is this: what kind of “empires of the mind” will rule the tech world in the decades ahead. Minds from countries, like China, whose students work hard and score well in these tests. But minds that need to be taught to be entrepreneurial.
Or “empires of the mind” from countries like the United States whose students are entrepreneurial but don’t work as hard to catch up to other countries in math and science.
Which is the easier challenge?
The race is on.
Who do you think is going to win?