Importance of Migrants

What do many successful entrepreneurs/business people have in common? Estee Lauder, Henry Ford, Elon Musk, Walt Disney, Sergei Brin, Adriana Huffington, Peter Theil, Jerry Yang are all migrants or children of migrants

"...a study published in 2017 revealed that 43% of companies in the Fortune 500 were found or co-founded by migrants or children of migrants (rising to 57% in the top 35 companies)..."

Matthew Syed 2019

Migrants make a disproportionate contribution to technology, manufacturing and academic science, ie

"...US-based researchers have been awarded 65% of Nobel prizes over the preceding few decades. More than half were born aboard..."

Matthew Syed 2019

"...different studies have shown that migrants are twice as likely to become entrepreneurs. They account for 13% of the US population, but 27.5% of those who start their own business..."
Matthew Syed 2019

"...the vast majority of the 69 countries surveyed reported higher entrepreneurial activity amongst immigrants than natives..."

2012 Global Entrepreneurial Monitor as quoted by Matthew Syed 2019

Some reasons for this are

i) immigrants are more likely to question the status quo, ie

"...they have experienced a different culture, a different way of doing things. When they see the business ideas in a new country, or particular technology, they do not see something immutable or irrevocable. They see something that could potentially be adapted and reform..."

Matthew Syed 2019

An outsider's perspective confers the ability to question the status quo

ii) the structure of innovation has changed (for a long time innovation was incremental like James Dyson using trial and error to improve his vacuum cleaners; the Wright brothers using thousands of prototypes to develop their aeroplane. Now it is about taking ideas from different fields and fusing them. This is called recombination, like wheels on suitcases. As it crosses different domains and opens up greater possibilities, the impact can be dramatic.

"...examining 17.9 million publications across 15,000 journals, found that the highest impact papers were those with atypical subject combinations. These papers were blending, say, physics and computation, or economics and network theory, or psychology and evolutionary biology..."

Web of Science as quoted by Matthew Syed 2019

This is where the best ideas are coming from and is reflected by the broader categories that the US Patent and Trademark Office use, such as utility patents (lightbulb), design patents (Coke bottle), plant patents (hybrid corn).

iii) diversity of experience (most immigrants have experienced at least 2 cultures which gives them a greater scope to bring differing ideas together)

NB Diversity of experience does not have to be geographic; it can be from diverse branches of science. For example,

"...Charles Darwin alternated between research in zoology, psychology, botany and geology. This did not diminish his creative potential, but enhanced it. It gave him the chance to see his specialism from the outside and defuse ideas from diverse branches of science..."

Matthew Syed 2019

"...2009 study found that the most consistently original scientists switched topics, on average, a remarkable 43 times in their first 100 published papers..."

Matthew Syed 2019


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