The American Consumer Rocks

Last Updated Apr 8, 2009 1:23 PM EDT

If you believe that the U.S. has been the most innovative nation on earth the last 100 years, you have to ask, why? Is it our entrepreneurial spirit? Our educational system? Our particular brand of capitalism?

Maybe all those things, but the list lacks one key ingredient: the American consumer.

In his new book The Venturesome Economy, Columbia business professor Amar Bhide argues that we happily serve as guinea pigs to purchase and test new innovation. We love technology, we embrace new, and we have/had disposable income. Our feedback to designers helps them improve the product rapidly.

In short, if you want to launch a successful new widget or wingle, the U.S. is the best place to do it, Bhide says

Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch readily agrees. In a recent post on Harvard Business Publishing, Quelch underscores How Consumers Drive American Innovation.

"This willingness to adopt new products, new processes and new services more rapidly than consumers in other countries may be the most important of all enablers of entrepreneurship and innovation in America."
So all of you who were first in line to buy the Ford Mustang, Polaroid camera, IBM PC Jr., TiVo player -- and those want to be the first on their block to own a jet bike -- take a bow!
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.