New Argonauts, Different Fleece

Larry Prusak, long-time management consultant and author of Working Knowledge, earlier noted the affinities between AnnaLee Saxenian’s New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy and Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations.Â

He is right, of course. Knowledge doesn’t flow from place to place along currents in the upper atmosphere, like some fairy dust, or even person-to-person over the Internet. It is laboriously acquired by immigrant students, scientists and engineers, who, under some circumstances, may return to their homelands and, again, under certain circumstances, start companies that may in time, often surprisingy little time, become substantial industries.

Saxenian, dean of the School of Information Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, is hardly the first scholar to study the mechanics of “catch-up.” But by zeroing in on the stories of the foreign-born, technically-skilled entrepreneurs who travel back and forth between Silicon Valley to Taiwan, mainland China, india and Israel, she brings into sharp focus the reason why open borders are an important key to economic growth, especially for the well-trained.

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