James B. Stewart believes that a fearless culture fuels U.S. tech giants.
Often overlooked in the success of American start-ups is the even greater number of failures. “Fail fast, fail often” is a Silicon Valley mantra, and the freedom to innovate is inextricably linked to the freedom to fail. In Europe, failure carries a much greater stigma than it does in the United States. Bankruptcy codes are far more punitive, in contrast to the United States, where bankruptcy is simply a rite of passage for many successful entrepreneurs.
Petre Moser, assistant professor of economics at Standard and its Europe Center, said that Europeans have been trying to recreate Silicon Valley with little success, “The institutional and cultural differences are still too great.”
In his New York Times column, Stewart explains:
One of Europe’s greatest innovations was the forerunner of the modern university: Bologna, founded in 1088. But as centers of research and innovation, Europe’s universities long ago ceded leadership to those in the United States.
With its emphasis on early testing and sorting, the educational system in Europe tends to be very rigid. “If you don’t do well at age 18, you’re out,” Professor Moser said. “That cuts out a lot of people who could do better but never get the chance. The person who does best at a test of rote memorization at age 17 may not be innovative at 23.” She added that many of Europe’s most enterprising students go to the United States to study and end up staying.
She is currently doing research into creativity. “The American education system is much more forgiving,” Professor Moser said. “Students can catch up and go on to excel.”