cover image The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

Clayton M. Christensen, Efosa Ojomo, and Karen Dillon. HarperBusiness, $29.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-285182-6

Harvard Business School professor Christensen (How Will You Measure Your Life?), Ojomo (a research fellow at Christensen’s research institute), and Dillon (Christensen’s coauthor on several books) propose a bold approach to ameliorating global poverty in this cogent study. They ask, “What if, instead of trying to fix the visible signs of poverty, we focused on creating lasting prosperity?” and argue that market-creating innovations are the answer to long-term economic growth. This means, for example, prioritizing a market for cellphone service over funneling aid into building water wells (that might not be sustained by a nation’s crumbling infrastructure) or attempting to stamp out corruption; they argue the former will catalyze sustained economic development. The authors thoroughly and accessibly outline the basis for their logic and the potential barriers to innovations in devastated economies, drawing on examples of successful market-creating innovations such as the Ford Model T and the more contemporary example of Tolaram, a Singaporean company that, in order to sell instant noodles in Nigeria, ended up building infrastructure there to support manufacturing and distribution. Not all readers will find the emphasis on economic development over other goods morally appealing, but this book upends the typical ways of thinking and talking about poverty in developing countries. (Jan.)