An accomplished author, John Kao has written books

on innovation, creativity and what takes to make a difference in the world.

Innovation Nation

How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters And What We Can Do To Get It Back

Not long ago, Americans could rightfully feel confident in our preeminence in the world economy. The U.S. set the pace as the world’s leading innovator—from the personal computer to the internet, from Wall Street to Hollywood, from the decoding of the genome to the emergence of Web 2.0, we led the way and the future was ours. So I ask, how is it that today Finland is the world’s most competitive economy? That U.S. students rank 24th in the world in math literacy and twenty-sixth in problem-solving ability? Or that in 2005 and 2006 combined, 30,000 highly trained professionals left the U.S. to return to their native India in a reverse brain drain?

Even as the United States has lost standing in the world community because of the war in Iraq, I warn that the country is losing its edge in economic leadership as well. The future of our prosperity, and of our national security, are at serious risk—but it doesn’t have to be this way. Based on my in-depth experience advising many of the world’s leading companies and studying cutting-edge innovation “best practices” in the most dynamic hot spots of innovation both in the U.S. and around the world, I argue that the U.S. still has the capability not only to regain our competitive edge, but to take a bold step ahead of the global community and secure a leadership role in the 21st century. We must, though, take serious and concerted action quickly.

First, I offer a stunning, troubling portrait of just how serious the erosion of U.S. competitiveness has been in recent years, then take readers on a fascinating tour of the leading innovation centers (such as those in Singapore, Denmark, and Finland) that are trumping us in their more focused and creative approaches to fueling innovation. I lay out a groundbreaking plan for a national innovation strategy that would empower the U.S. to actually innovate the process of innovation—to marshal our vast resources of talent and infrastructure in the particular ways that my studies of innovation have shown lead to transformative results.

Innovation Nation is vital reading for all those Americans who are troubled by the great challenges the U.S. faces in the ever-more competitive economy of our 21st century world.

  • Tom Friedman sounded the alarm and gave us the big picture about the flattening of the world, and the decline of education and innovation in the U.S.A. John Kao gives us the specifics on exactly why and how the U.S.A. is losing our most valuable asset—the ability of Americans to come up with great ideas.

    Howard Rheingold Author of Smart Mobs
  • In a scary, insightful and ultimately very useful book—written to inform the 2008 Presidential primary agenda—Kao punctures America's smug self-congratulation.

    Bruce Nussbaum Editor at BusinessWeek
  • The arms race of the last century has been replaced by a new global brain race—and the U.S. is in danger of unilaterally disarming. This inspiring book frames the challenge facing us and offers immensely practical advice on how to regain our place as innovation leaders.

    Paul Saffo Roy Amara Fellow at the Institute for the Future
  • What most recommends Mr. Kao is that he is an entrepreneur in his own right...If Orson Welles and Peter Drucker were somehow to mate, the resulting progeny might be something like Mr. Kao, a serial innovator.

    The Economist
  • John Kao has sounded the alarm over America's atrophying ability to innovate. Through apt historical references and a no-nonsense critique of fundamentals (e.g., school curriculum, institutional cultures, etc.) he shows where America has strayed from the "engine of invention" following Sputnik and through the Apollo missions to the moon—and how today's innovation hotbeds in Singapore, Denmark and Finland are eroding America's long-term economic viability. He also offers practical solutions (from the micro to the macro) in this provocative ‘long view’ of a culture that was built on innovation.

    Shane Deichman


The Art And Discipline Of Business Creativity

One of my great loves is jazz. I was a serious classical piano student as a child, but when I heard the jazz greats at the age of 12, the world opened up. How, I wondered, did Bill Evans or Thelonius Monk create those amazing sounds?

My lifelong interest in jazz led me to think about the connection between improvisation in jazz and the innovation process itself—an itch I could not help but scratch. This curiosity resulted in a book called Jamming, published in 1996 by HarperCollins. Jamming became a best-seller, was translated into 16 foreign languages and remains in print today—and I’m still getting emails from readers about the book. Think of Jamming as a guide to what jazz musicians have to teach teachers.



Recently, in response to the siren call of e-publishing, I wrote a series of digital and audio shorts for FT Press (Pearson), including Clearing the Mind for Creativity,  Are You a Producer?, and The Future Is Yours to Invent.

Please let me know if there are topics you would like me to consider writing about in the future.

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