So, can the US really learn from Germany? I'd say: Yes, please, but American style! When Germany tanked in the '90s, it slept through a whole phase of modernization. When Apple and Microsoft, Oracle and Google grew to become global powerhouses, Germany stood by. Except for the software company SAP, there simply are no German equivalents. There is no German Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.
Germans barely do IT innovation. Why, then, would a country be seen as a global role model for industrial modernization after it has just about skipped a full cycle of innovation?
Well, Germans may not be good at transformative innovation, but they are great at incremental innovation. Germans, the saying goes, make things that go inside the thing that goes inside the thing. They produce niche products, and do that well. By the end of, say, 10 improvement cycles, German tinkering has produced a completely new product.