Study Claims 77% of Economic Growth is Due to Incremental Innovation

I am surprised by, and dubious of, the claim that 77% of economic growth comes from incremental innovation. That implies that leapfrog innovation, or creative destruction, is not very important. I will need to read and ponder the study that claimed that result.

(p. A15) The comparison of two potential options—known as A/B testing—is now routinely baked into the development of customer-facing software, Mr. Thomke reports. Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google “each conduct more than ten thousand online experiments annually,” he writes, adding that even companies without tech roots (Nike, State Farm) run trials like this regularly. The tests might evaluate, say, the components of a website—style of font, color of background, shape of buttons, choice of words—and continuously adjust them based on user response.  . . .

As much as Mr. Thomke, a Harvard Business School professor, believes that “all businesses should be experimenters,” he wisely observes that “not all innovation decisions can be tested.” A/B testing may not be the best way to evaluate a completely new product or a radically different business model, he concedes, but the approach is the ideal driver of small changes. Though we celebrate disruption, Mr. Thomke urges companies to “tap into the power of high-velocity incrementalism,” explaining that “most progress is achieved by implementing hundreds or thousands of minor improvements.” He points to a study that attributes 77% of economic growth to improvements in existing products and notes that the structured system of incremental improvements that Lego implemented following its near-bankruptcy in 2004 drove 95% of annual sales and helped restore the company to profitability.

For the full review, see:

David A. Shaywitz. “Test, Test And Test Again.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, March 16, 2020): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 15, 2020, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Experimentation Works’ and ‘The Power of Experiments’ Review: Test, Test and Test Again.”)

The book discussed in the passages quoted above, is:

Thomke, Stefan H. Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2020.

The “study” mentioned above that attributes 77% of economic growth to incremental innovation, is:

Garcia-Macia, Daniel, Chang-Tai Hsieh, and Peter J. Klenow. “How Destructive Is Innovation?” Econometrica 87, no. 5 (Sept. 2019): 1507-41.

“Entrepreneur Sent Our Words Across an Ocean”

Cyrus Field is described as a “project entrepreneur” in my Openness to Creative Destruction book. In the op-ed linked-to below, I celebrate his achievement.

My book, mentioned above, is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

OUP Offers Free Download of Chap. 9: “Innovation Bound or Unbound by Culture and Institutions”

Oxford University Press (OUP) has created a list of 6 books they recommend on business innovation. If you follow the link below, you can download a free PDF of Chapter 9 (“Innovation Bound or Unbound by Culture and Institutions”) of my Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. Alas, I think the free download is only available through February 29, 2020. (Chapter 9 is not my favorite chapter, but free is free;)

My book is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

No Evidence Base that Smartphones Cause Anxiety and Depression in Teens

(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO — It has become common wisdom that too much time spent on smartphones and social media is responsible for a recent spike in anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, especially among teenagers.

But a growing number of academic researchers have produced studies that suggest the common wisdom is wrong.

The latest research, published on Friday [January 17, 2020] by two psychology professors, combs through about 40 studies that have examined the link between social media use and both depression and anxiety among adolescents. That link, according to the professors, is small and inconsistent.

“There doesn’t seem to be an evidence base that would explain the level of panic and consternation around these issues,” said Candice L. Odgers, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the lead author of the paper, which was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

For the full story, see:

Nathaniel Popper. “The Menace of Screen Time Could Be More of a Mirage.” The New York Times (Saturday, January 18, 2020): B1 & B6.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 17, 2020, and has the title “Panicking About Your Kids’ Phones? New Research Says Don’t.”)

The Odgers paper, mentioned in the passage quoted above, is:

Odgers, Candice L., and Michaeline R. Jensen. “Annual Research Review: Adolescent Mental Health in the Digital Age: Facts, Fears, and Future Directions.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (published first online Jan. 17, 2020).

The Creative Destruction of Broadcast TV by Streaming, Increases Variety

(p. B4) It has been on a steep upward trajectory for years, and in 2019, it finally happened.

There were more than 500 scripted television series in the United States last year, a high. The estimated number: 532 comedies, dramas and limited series that were broadcast or streamed, according to the research department of the cable network FX, which tabulates and releases the figure every year.

It marked the first time the 500-show threshold had been crossed, representing a 7 percent increase over the number of scripted shows in 2018.

The 2019 total was 52 percent more than the 349 shows that existed in 2013, the year that streaming started to become a habit for many viewers, with the debut of “House of Cards” on Netflix. And it’s a jump of 153 percent over the 210 series available in 2009.

For the full story, see:

John Koblin. “It’s Not an Illusion: Peak TV Is Showing No Signs of Slowing.” The New York Times (Saturday, January 10, 2020): B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 9, 2020, and has the title “Yellow or Blue? In Hong Kong, Businesses Choose Political Sides.”)

Jobs Return to “Creative Destruction Parts of the Country”

(p. B5) “If you look, there are a heck of a lot of successful manufacturing parts of the country right now,” Kevin Hassett, the departing chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. “But look at where they’re being created.”

Mr. Hassett drew a distinction between “creative destruction” parts of the country, where the Great Recession wiped out jobs but others sprung up to replace them, and “destruction-destruction” parts, where jobs have been slow to return. Recent factory job growth, he said, was “not necessarily disproportionately in the destruction-destruction places.”

For the full story, see:

Jim Tankersley. “Growth in Factory Jobs Skips Traditional Hubs.” The New York Times (Friday, June 14, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 13, 2019, and has the title “In the Race for Factory Jobs Under Trump, the Midwest Isn’t Winning.”)