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Violence and Innovation

ABU DHABI – In the 1949 British film The Third Man, the character Harry Lime observes that, during the Borgia family’s rule in Renaissance Italy, the country “had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed. But [it] produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.” By contrast, he contends, Switzerland’s 500 years of democracy and peace produced little more than the cuckoo clock.

While the implication that innovation and creativity are born only of conflict is extreme – in fact, Switzerland is a world leader in innovation – Lime makes a crucial point. Although peace, order, and political stability are widely perceived as essential prerequisites for invention, entrepreneurship, and economic development, there have been many exceptions to this rule – especially when it comes to creativity and innovation.