July Fourth is a day to celebrate independence — and innovation

ASU business professor explains how America's entrepreneurial spirit sets the country apart


Photo looking up at skyscrapers and an American flag

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This Independence Day, millions will celebrate the holiday with barbecues, family gatherings, fireworks and recognition of our country’s Founding Fathers.

An Arizona State University professor also wants Americans to ponder the backbone of our independence and what makes our country different.

Hitendra Chaturvedi, a professor of practice at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, says declaring our independence was the first significant step in American history, but entrepreneurship has kept democracy alive since 1776.

“America’s superpower is not its weapons, but its secret sauce; its core competency is the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens that have created an innovation engine driving an economy that remains the most valuable startup in the history of mankind,” said Chaturvedi, who is a celebrated author and sits on advisory committees of many startups and incubators.

ASU spoke to Chaturvedi to discuss the spirit of America, entrepreneurship and how higher education can promote creativity, critical thinking and risk-taking.

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Man in black turtleneck and coat
ASU Professor of Practice Hitendra Chaturvedi. Photo by Shelley Valdez/ASU

Question: Is there a relationship between July Fourth and the entrepreneurial spirit of America?

Answer: The quintessential spirit behind July Fourth is American independence, unity and celebration of freedom. American entrepreneurial spirit has always been associated with freedom of choice, the freedom to dream big and achieve the impossible, the freedom from the shackles of the traditional mindset, and the freedom to innovate, regardless of our background or ethnicity.

July Fourth is therefore a fitting tribute to the fighting spirit of American entrepreneurs and intrapreneurDefined as a manager within a company who promotes innovative product development and marketing.s that built America.

Q: Why is the need for entrepreneurial spirit so important now?

A: Every few decades, when people think that innovation is at its plateau, there comes a window of opportunity, a big new wave, that reignites our entrepreneurial spirit. People and nations who have taken advantage of such opportunities have changed history.

In the late 1800s, it was the Industrial Revolution, which saw England emerge as the leader. Since the 1900s, Americans have been first at taking advantage of subsequent opportunities — with the arrival of electricity and assembly lines in the early 1900s, the postwar entrepreneurship spirit that built America in the mid-1900s and the internet in the 1990s.

Even the Great Depression could not stop the American entrepreneurial spirit that turned adversity into opportunity and saw the rise of companies like HP, Revlon, Texas Instruments, Fisher Price and Mars, to name a few.

 
Reforming the education system to promote creativity, critical thinking and risk-taking is essential ... We need graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset...
Hitendra ChaturvediProfessor of practice, W. P. Carey School of Business

Advancement in technology has again presented us with a window of opportunity. Augmented intelligence, space exploration and climate change are just a few areas that can reshuffle the leaderboard of global economic power. As a startup nation and as natural-born entrepreneurs, it is time again for us to take the lead.

Postwar, or during the internet age, the rest of the world was either recovering from the damages of the war or going through economic, political and social upheavals. This time, it is different. Competitor nations are not weak; technologies like AI are leveling the playing field, so the fight will be tough. We need to ask: Are we ready to take on this fight?

Q: What do we need to do?

A: There are many things that can be done, but fundamentally, we need to ask what creates a groundswell, and it starts with education. Reforming the education system to promote creativity, critical thinking and risk-taking is essential to building our secret weapon. We need graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset who can innovate as entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

Secondly, let the seeds of entrepreneurial spirit be spread far and wide. Innovation should not be confined to a few large companies. The spirit of the “garage startup,” exemplified by the beginnings of companies like HP and Apple, should be widely cultivated. Encouraging more individuals to start their ventures will create a robust innovation ecosystem. Let us make a promise this Fourth of July to create millions of such garage startups through a groundswell of entrepreneurial mindset.

Finally, to incubate and nurture this entrepreneurial spirit, we need an ecosystem formed by the collaboration among government, educational institutions, investors and companies that provide resources, mentorship and support to fire up the nation’s imagination.

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