What do the following people have in common? Levi Strauss, Henry Ford, Estee Lauder, Walt Disney, Elon Musk, Arianna Huffington, Sergey Brin? They are all famous entrepreneurs who founded successful new businesses. But also they are all immigrants or the children of immigrants.
According to the Entrepreneurs Network, while just 14% of UK residents are foreign-born, 49% of the UK’s fastest-growing startups have at least one foreign-born co-founder.
The Kauffman Organization reports that more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, over 50% of American billion-dollar “unicorn” startups have at least one immigrant founder, and immigrants are nearly twice as likely as the native-born to start a new company.
Immigrants have been awarded 37% of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine and physics since 2000, according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.
Many other studies show similar results. Why are immigrants better than natives when it comes to innovation, invention and entrepreneurship? It is mainly what Matthew Syed calls the ‘outsider mindset’ in his book, Rebel Ideas. They have experienced a different country and a different culture. They have not grown up with the assumptions and beliefs which are ingrained in most of the population. Because they are outside the normal frame of reference they can challenge the status quo and see new possibilities. They can contrast and combine two different viewpoints because that is what they have done since their arrival.
When we are immersed in a topic, in a business or in a way of life we are surrounded by its conventions and limitations. We can become trapped in our way of thinking. The outsider can bring an open mind to the situation and a fresh point of view. If you are not an immigrant then try to think like one – or maybe employ some and ask for their ideas.
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This post was previously published on Destination Innovation.
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