Sarah Miller Caldicott believes she has a new model for reinvigorating U.S. technology innovation: the same one developed by her great-granduncle, Thomas Alva Edison.
Edison's five competencies boil down to one thing: teamwork. "The teams were centrally involved in creating value," Miller Caldicott said. "You didn't have layers and layers of managers" making decisions but not creating value.
The global credit crisis and the collapse of financial icons like Lehman Brothers and AIG have raised fundamental questions about the way Wall Street works, with serious consequences for continuing U.S. economic growth and technology innovation.
"Wall Street has not always been looking in the right places for value creation," Miller Caldicott warns. "The value creation is in the team."
Venture capital also has shaped the way American innovation has changed since Edison's time. The legendary inventor often plowed profits from his inventions right back into new research. Today's entrepreneurs frequently must "sell out" to VCs in order to transform an idea into a product.
"Part of the challenge that any entrepreneur or innovator faces today who is seeking [VC] money is this notion of having to give up so much control," said Miller Caldicott. The result is "dueling goals," pitting entrepreneurs who want to reap the benefits of their hard work against venture capitalists who must factor risk into their investments.
"We need to reevaluate this" so that entrepreneurs aren't forced to give up control of their intellectual property, Miller Caldicott said.
One possible solution is the creation of "financial pools" to promote technology innovation and the development of products that consumers want to buy.
Miller Caldicott and her book won't solve the problems created by globalization and Wall Street machinations, but her ideas do advance the debate about reviving technology innovation.
"We are a nation of innovators," she concludes. "That's what we do."