Can Russia Replicate the Research Triangle Region’s Collaborative Model?
Here’s What Might Hold Them Back
In early September I traveled to Moscow to address a group of Russian university executives at the Moscow School of Management’s Skolkovo Campus. They had invited me because they knew of our region’s leadership in “Triple Helix” – the nexus of partnerships between businesses, government entities and educational institutions. They had also heard of how our spirit of “Collaboratition” binds competing companies and communities in a way that harnesses new industries, technologies and opportunities.
My hosts funded the trip and paid a small stipend in exchange for the two-hour presentation and Q&A period.
That leaders on the other side of the world respect what we’re doing enough to want to emulate us speaks well of the Research Triangle Region. But it’s also evidence that when it comes to workable job-creation solutions in the 21st Century, the rest of the world struggles with global economics just as our country does -- likely more so.
For most Americans of my generation, thoughts of Russia recall a rush of Cold War memories of ideological tension and grainy images of unsmiling people standing against drab buildings under gray skies. The Moscow of today, in contrast, is a colorful and cosmopolitan city populated by intelligent people with ambition in their eyes. Russian women are particularly well-educated and confident. Most Muscovites are stylishly dressed, and the presence of the world’s top high-end apparel retailers attests to the onetime-Communist country’s embrace of open markets and global commerce.
I’m not sure the relatively small and elite handful of Russians I met in Moscow was an accurate representation of the Russia Federation’s 143 million people, but those I interacted with were eager to see their country compete and succeed in today’s Knowledge economy. They view collaboration as the pathway to that end. But achieving it may be a challenge for a country where vestiges of central planning, party hierarchies and inward-looking nationalism are very visible. We’ll see.
The absence of much diversity there may also limit Russia’s ability to replicate our collaborative models. The best partnerships are formed by individuals and organizations possessing shared interests but not necessarily identical values. Complementarity, by definition, typically occurs best among opposites. In Russia, there is a sea of sameness – people marching in the same direction and at the same pace. Contrast that with the chaotic jamble of individuals and ideas whisking through any of our downtown streets and businesses.
On this score, I think our country is far better positioned to integrate with the globe than our Russian counterparts. Diversity makes our economy a far more accurate – and potentially lucrative – reflection of the world’s marketplace.
The world -- Russia included -- is a fascinating place, but it sure is good to be home!