Innovative lessons from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the global Innovation Economy
My mother gave me a good piece of advice early in my life when she said that “Even a stopped clock is right twice per day.” Her point was a basic one: Just as an otherwise useless, broken clock displays the correct time twice daily, I don’t have to adopt whole hog anyone’s ideas to recognize a truth in something they have said.
It is off of that advice that I must confess to be largely in agreement with a famous quote of the German-Prussian statesman of the late 19th century, Otto von Bismarck, who said “Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others.”
Having recently read an excellent commentary by U.S. Rep. Mike Honda and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke titled “Asians, Pacific Islanders among leaders in innovation,” highlighting the extraordinary contributions that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are making to boost U.S. innovation and increase our national competitiveness, I believe that Black Americans can learn plenty from the experience of the Asian American and Pacific Islander minority.
Experience of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Honda and Locke note that with 1.1 million firms, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of business ownership among all minorities, and their businesses account for fully half of all minority business employment in the U.S.
I have little doubt that the amazing performance of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is meaningfully attributable to and driven by their disproportionately high achievement in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math).
The U.S. Department of Education reports that STEM fields make up 15.9 percent of all bachelor degrees awarded; and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ degree concentration in the STEM fields is disproportionately high at 21.8 percent.
Moreover, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders also have a higher STEM bachelor’s degree completion rate at 31.2 percent than do White, Black and Hispanic Americans.
These trends bode well for continued and growing economic contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as by 2018, the top thirty fasted growing occupations will be in STEM fields requiring a bachelor’s or higher degree.
I wish to be clear that these statistics are not intended in any way to undermine or otherwise diminish Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ admirable risk-taking and cultural propensity to create new enterprises. Rather, the statistics simply underscore the foundational elements of the 21st century Innovation Economy and how these elements manifest over time as real prosperity.
Lessons for Black Americans
The BICI is unalterably committed to the proposition that the root of innovation and competitiveness is STEM education. And the experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are clearly demonstrating that STEM education is also the root of 21st century economic success.
We, Black Americans, are no fools. The compelling nature of “the experience of others” — in this case, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — provides unmistakable and valuable lessons that we should and will learn as a new narrative emerges in our communities.
Johnathan Holifield, Trim Tabber