Where in the World is Innovation?

August 11, 2006  

Today’s blog is related to my innovation and creativity work.

I recently discovered a new Google offering, Google Trends. Type in a word or phrase, and it will show you a graph of how often that expression is searched (as a trend, not as actual volume). More interestingly, it will tell you where in the world the expression is most frequently searched. Americans like to think that they are the center of the innovation world. But if Google Trends is correct, we are not even on the map. During 2006, the top 10 regions of the world where the word “innovation” was searched are:

1. Singapore
2. Denmark
3. Malaysia
4. India
5. South Africa
6. South Korea
7. Ireland
8. Norway
9. Australia
10. New Zealand

Type in “creativity” and you get a similar list, but with India leading the pack and the United Kingdom appearing in the top 10. Yes, there are more people in India than in the United States. But Singapore? Denmark? Danish is the most popular language used when searching innovation. Fascinating.

I don’t want to read into these trends too much. Google admits that these results are approximations. And, a lack of searches for the words “innovation” and “creative” does not imply a lack of innovation or creativity. However, I find it interesting. According to Dan Pink, author of a “Whole New Mind,” as work gets outsourced to India and China, innovation & creativity will become the main currency of the United States. If these trends are accurate, we may need to print more currency.

Thoughts?

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3 Responses to “Where in the World is Innovation?”

  1. Ethan on August 13th, 2006 9:07 pm

    I don’t understand the relevance. You said it yourself: searching on google for the word “innovation” does not have much to do with actually being innovative. It would seem a person who did have innovation and creativity would gain little from looking up those words on a search engine, where results are mostly self-help sites. I would suggest not having the US on the list might even be a good thing.

  2. Stephen Shapiro on August 14th, 2006 9:08 am

    Ethan, interesting point. You may be right.

    From my perspective, Google searches highlight trends and indicate what’s hot. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that is true. Then, if innovation were truly pervasive within American businesses, I would not expect companies to search for this topic. To your point. However, I know that innovation is still in its infancy within most businesses. And I know that many of my clients still use the Internet extensively to research innovation, even if only to find books, speakers, consultants, or conferences. So, if innovation were truly an emerging hot topic in American businesses, I would have expected the US to show up somewhere on the list.

    Regardless, I just thought it was interesting and never wanted to read into it too much. Thanks for your comment.

  3. ed bernacki on August 16th, 2006 7:19 am

    I find this curious. At minimum it means people are exploring the terms. For such a small country, I find that Singapore is surprising. A common assumption I often hear is how structured and non creative its society is. Yet when I did a couple of projects involving innovation in the public sector in Singapore I found their the background principles of these projects more original and insightful when compared to what I knew from the North American world. They have dedicated programs to help all organization be more innovative. I also lived in Australia and New Zealand. The fact they are on the list does not surprise me. Many government policies and business leaders talk about the need for more innovative thinking. Perhaps this is what prompts people to search. Now that I live in Canada, I find it sad but not surprising that Canada is not on that list. The general level of management conversation around innovation and creativity is no where as high as I experienced in the countries I mentioned above. Interesting observation. Something must draw people to search for these terms.