Friday, March 04, 2011

The “Garage Story" As Creation Myth

A Brothers Heath column crossed my mind Monday as I listened to a young entrepreneur describe how his Durham start up came to be. Turns out he had prior connections with the Peace Corps and Red Hat. By the way, he's not the first to cite the Peace Corps.

Chip and Dan wrote about “The Myth About Creation Myths” and it turns out based on two studies that most garage start up stories are mythical. “Companies aren’t born in garages. Companies are born in companies.” And “in government” too, I would add, based on a radio interview with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. It is well worth reading.Capture

A very short, $4 electronic-only book, published last month by economist Tyler Cowen entitled The Great Stagnation makes compelling arguments.

One is that many of our current economic problems are because we plucked all of the “low-hanging” fruit for job-revenue-generating-game changing innovations, especially between 1870 and 1970 including things like westward settlement, railroads, cars, airplanes, indoor plumbing, refrigerators, television and radio etc.

We’re definitely on the backside of a bell curve when you look at innovation and population from the 1400s.

Cowen explains, while holding out hope and signaling some solutions, that many of the recent innovations such as the iPod may be negative job generators, maybe even category killers.

He also explains in a bi-partisan or equal-opportunity-offender manner how both “BIG” government and “Big” business came to be and why smaller is more sustainable and productivity in education and healthcare are so hard to measure.

But if we face up to these realities as the Heaths write, they “shouldn’t diminish these monumental achievements. Yet it feels like it does…we all crave the excitement of creation myths” such as those being fostered around the resurgence of Downtown Durham right now.

But face up to these realities we must. While creation myths may be inspiring initially, the reality is that they lead a lot of people to discouragement and failure and false hope and unrealistic expectations.

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