McGraw-Hill Press Release

Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy
By Judy Estrin

The high cost of losing innovation in America – and solutions to revive national prosperit in the global economy

In the last half of the 20th Century, the United States benefited from a rich environment of scientific and technological innovation that led to such major discoveries and initiatives as DNA, the microprocessor, and the Internet. But now, short-term thinking and fear of risk are jeopardizing our future says Judy Estrin, who has built a 30-year career at the forefront of technology and business.

Deeply thought-provoking. An extraordinary tapestry of commentary drawn from scores of interviews and woven into a coherent fabric about innovation and why it must be a part of America’s future.
— Vint Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist, Google

CLOSING THE INNOVATION GAP (McGraw-Hill; Hardcover, September, 2008) explains how recent dramatic shifts in our society – particularly an emphasis on boosting current profit margins at the cost of long-term exploration and sustainability – have undermined the cultural foundation that nurtured America’s success, creating dangerous blind spots in business and science as we try to compete in the global economy.

Those blind spots go beyond a shift away from long-term R&D. The collapse of innovation is now being felt in science, academia, federal policy, health care, and corporate boardrooms. While countries like China aggressively position themselves for economic and technological growth in the future, the United States is focusing almost exclusively on short-term investments. The country is suffering from what Estrin terms "Root Rot," like a tree whose leaves appear to flourish, while the source of its nourishment withers and dies. As our support for innovation declines, our nation faces serious challenges – and thus, major opportunities – in energy use and climate change, health care, and national security. Estrin believes that as the Space Race did in the 1950s, each of these challenges could inspire its own "moon shot," rallying the nation to come together and revive the spirit of innovation.

A passionate look at innovation by a proven innovator concerned about the level of short-sightedness surrounding us.
— Andy Grove, former CEO, Intel

Estrin explains in clear and simple terms how the three communities that drive innovation – in research, development, and application – must exist in balance to flourish, like a natural ecosystem. The Innovation Ecosystem requires collaboration between these communities, and must be nurtured by wise leadership, sustainable funding, smart policy, solid education and a culture that respects science. Using anecdotes and examples from more than 100 leaders at companies like Disney, Pixar, FedEx, Proctor & Gamble, and Google, as well as academic and scientific institutions, Estrin shows how applying five core values of questioning, patience, trust, openness and risk can reignite innovation in individuals, companies, institutions, and countries.

CLOSING THE INNOVATION GAP rolls out an action plan for reviving
national innovation by:

  • Creating cultures and organizational structures for innovation through "green thumb leadership";
  • Evaluating the innovation portfolios of businesses, industries, and countries;
  • Understanding the impact of policy decisions and investments on long-term innovation independent of partisan beliefs and religious ideologies;
  • Encouraging critical thinking and problem solving by changing the fundamentals of how and what we teach, rather than obsession with the outcomes of standardized tests.

Innovation is not optional. Sustainable innovation is integral to our economic growth. It is not too late to reignite the spark of creativity and take decisive actions to save our future.
— Judy Estrin

Judy Estrin 

Judy Estrin has been named three times to Fortune Magazine's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in American business, and was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame.

She started her career as a 21-year old researcher in the lab that created the underlying technology for the Internet, co-founded several successful companies, pioneered the computer networking industry, and served as chief technology officer of networking giant Cisco.

She is currently a board member of The Walt Disney Company and FedEx Corporation. She also serves on the advisory boards of Stanford’s School of Engineering, and a member of the University Of California President’s Science and Innovation Advisory Board.


Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy
September, 2008
Hardcover, $27.95
Category: Business/Economics

What they're saying about closing the innovation gap:

Judy Estrin is one of Silicon Valley’s greatest entrepreneurs and technologists. If you care about the state of entrepreneurship and management in the 21st century, her book is a must-read.
— Roger McNamee, Managing Director, Elevation Partners
Judy Estrin has zeroed in on the lack of long-term thinking in business and culture that is one of the gravest problems we face today. Her urgent call to action is a must-read for anyone interested in fostering and accelerating innovation in their business or organization.
— Bob Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Company
Concerned about the future of America’s role in the global economy? Then, whether you’re a business leader, educator or policy maker, you should read this book. America achieved greatness through its ability to engineer, explore and innovate. Estrin provides a fresh perspective on the importance of innovation to our future, and shines a bright light on the problems we face in rebuilding its crumbling cultural and educational foundations.
— Sally K. Ride, Ph.D., first American woman astronaut