Centre for Finance and Development

Too Small To Fail: Why Some Small Nations Outperform Larger Ones and How They Are Reshaping the World

R. James Breiding, author of Swiss Made - The Untold Story behind Switzerland's Success
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Auditorium Ivan Pictet B, Maison de la paix, Geneva

‘Make America Great Again’ - ‘La Grande Nation’ - even the Chinese characters for “China” mean “magnificent” and “center,” reflecting their belief that the world revolves around Beijing. These countries must have the world’s most innovative and productive economies and the world’s happiest, healthiest and best educated citizens, right? No, not quite.

As the new book by author R. James Breiding shows  - Too Small To Fail: Why Some Small Nations Outperform Larger Ones and How They Are Reshaping the World, published by Harper Collins (2019) - small, outperforming countries have ‘arrived at the future first’, and are being forced to grapple as ‘laboratories of the future’ with problems impacting us all like climate change, immigration, artificial intelligence, aging populations, and slowing growth.

Denmark has been at the forefront of renewable energy ranging from bikes to wind turbines. Ireland has the most successful record attracting foreign companies. Singapore has the most cost-effective health care service. Israel has the most enviable start-up scene outside of Silicon Valley. The Netherlands is at the forefront of agriculture technology. Finland stands out with the best primary education system in the world, Sweden for gender equality and Switzerland has the highest density of leading multinationals in the world.

So why is it that small countries are outperforming larger ones?  And what lessons can be learned? The author, R. James Breiding, fellow at Harvard’s Center for International Development, will be discussing these and many more questions.

Join us to discuss these exciting questions and the newly launched S8 Initiative which has grown out of this book and seeks to bring together smaller innovative countries in a yearly conference, tentatively scheduled for Q3 2020. S8 seeks to bring together leading politicians, academics and business people in delegations from eight small, outperforming countries in order to share insights and policy knowledge in a number of different fields and issue areas. The aim is ultimately to spark social and political debate, showing the leadership of S8 countries in key domains and encouraging others to follow suit.

Free entrance. Registration required.



12:15-12:30: Opening remarks, Jean-Pierre Roth

12:30-13:00: Presentation of the book Too Small to Fail by James Breiding

13:00-13:45: Panel Discussion

  • Jean-Pierre Roth, Former Swiss Governor of the International Monetary Fund and Chairman of the Bank for International Settlements
  • James Breiding, Founder of Naissance Capital and Lecturer and Fellow at Harvard’s Center for International Development
  • Cedric Tille, Professor, International Economics at the Graduate Institute Geneva and Head of the Bilateral Assistance and Capacity Building for Central Banks (BCC) Programme
  • Moderator: Nicholas Niggli, Deputy Secretary General at Republic and State of Geneva
Video recording of "Too Small To Fail: Why Some Small Nations Outperform Larger Ones and How They Are Reshaping the World" (9 March 2020)