Flagship Research Quarterly of the Indian School of Business (ISB). Find out more

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Past Issue • Apr-Jun 2011

Innovate!: How Great Companies Get Started in Terrible Times

“Innovation is a talent not a skill,” Thomas Meyer writes in his introduction to this book that is about great companies that began in economic downturn. Meyer breaks down the sources of this talent so other entrepreneurs can learn, free their imagination and possibly “change the course of history.” Meyer’s book is well intended – it comes at a time when the American economy is going through one of the worst recessions in modern history. His stories of success are intended to spur the entrepreneur into action and thereby revitalize the economy. But inspiration alone is not enough. Entrepreneurship requires self-reflection, knowledge and attitude, all of which are accomplished more easily in financially stable conditions. For terrible times, all he offers is hope. Historically, recession was referred as “panic.” The first such panic occurred in 1797, when the Bank of England, reeling from the effects of war, caused tremendous damage to the American economy. This was also the time when the foundation to the great American bank, Chase Manhattan was laid. Great institutions that started during economic downturn include Proctor & Gamble that began during the panic of 1837, General Electric and Chevron that began in the depression of 1873-1879, and Morgan Stanley, Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, KFC, and Hewlett-Packard began their operation during the great depression of 1929-1939. In recent times, Sun Microsystems and The Princeton Review were started during the recession of 1980, when the unemployment rate was 6.3%

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