Innovation: within companies and on a global scale

Recently I had the privilege of sitting on the panel for the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) “Business Leaders of Tomorrow” award.  This was organised by the TSB’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and was a fantastic day spent talking with 11 high-achieving young business leaders operating in a wide range of sectors and roles.  It was inspiring to hear how they had demonstrated leadership and created real value for their employers from the initiatives they’d led.  I clearly cannot talk about the individuals that the panel decided should win an award (at least not until their names are in the public domain in the autumn); however you can get a good sense from the 2010 winners.

What resonated with me is that these people were talking about innovating within in their companies and yet none of the fell into the trap of talking about IT which is so tempting a vice in the technology sector.  I have a ton of opinion on this particular topic as previous blog posts have shown but actually I found a really succinct and articulate exposition of what I was planning to discuss in a fellow CTO’s blog as Andy Mullholland at Capgemini wrote about how the CIO is trapped between the CEO’s desire for innovation and the CFO’s need for compliance.

Having decided not to duplicate a well argued blog post I’d like to bring your attention to another recent publication: INSEAD’s Global Innovation Index (GII).  This is an annual report measuring countries/economies worldwide in terms of their capabilities to innovate and the results they derive.  The report looks at the “input” aspects which are the capabilities a country needs in place to enable innovation to take place collated in five categories:

  • Institutions
  • Human capital and research
  • Infrastructure
  • Market sophistication
  • Business sophistication

It also then looks at the “output” dimension which is evidence that innovation has taken place and that value has been created. This dimension is collated into two categories (with a number of sub-grouping for sensible granularity):

  • Scientific outputs
  • Creative outputs

Finally an index is created from the ratio of each dimension to give a view on the efficiency with which innovation is executed, termed the Innovation Efficiency Index.

What I found surprising is which countries are most highly ranked against the “input” and “output” dimensions and then the Global Innovation Efficiency Index.  A number of countries that I expected to be leading lights in the Innovation Efficiency Index were missing from the top ten, although it was extremely pleasing to see the UK there in tenth spot (just behind the US in seventh).

  1. Switzerland
  2. Sweden
  3. Singapore
  4. Hong Kong (SAR, China)
  5. Finland
  6. Denmark
  7. US
  8. Canada
  9. Netherlands
  10. UK

The report has a very good executive summary that makes very interesting reading, as does the full report. Europe notches up a cool 6 out of the top 10 countries (although the Nordic region has a very impressive 3 countries in the top 10 and 5 in the top 18!) and the report presents a number of different perspectives on the analysis as clearly understanding why a country or region is so ranked is key.

What I particularly liked about this report (over and above the depth and balance of the analysis) were the additional “analytical chapters” where the authors recognise that the GII model does not necessarily capture exactly the innovation capabilities and can miss certain aspects.  Three chapters that particularly caught my eye were concerned with:

  • Making cities smart and sustainable
  • The global footprint of innovation
  • Accounting for creativity in innovation: what we should be measuring and related difficulties

These are topics of great interest to me and I’ll be reading them carefully over the coming week or so, hopefully to return to in a future blog post.