How interested are people in innovation — and how does that change cross-culturally? What do users across the worldreally want, how can we uncover and design for their unmet needs, and what services can we attach to products to stay close to our customers? We've found that these questions point to a new need for innovative cultures in the world today (distinct from innovative companies).
To start measuring the innovation culture in its pure form, we used Google Insights for Search, which is a keyword optimization tool that reports what people are searching for on the internet. We developed a small lexicon of terms that represent a wide spectrum of innovation activities outside of the core R&D and patent area. For example, we used innovation-linked terms like "design thinking," "Six Sigma," "open innovation," and "product design," among others. We then checked and cross referenced interest in those terms across country lines*. Here are the results — the countries we found to be most interested in innovation:
We found India to be a convincing leader, with the United States trailing second and Singapore, Canada, S. Korea, and the United Kingdom following. Note that even without data from China, Asia is bubbling with interest in innovation. However, we will admit the important qualitative differences in the interests of Asians and the English-speaking West that the data does not account for.
The United States, Canada, and the UK owe their place in the table to their interest in the funding and exploitation of innovation, and in terms that include the root term "create."
For example you can see in this chart indicating regional interest (below), the prominence of the search term "creative talent" in the US especially. "Creative talent" is represented by the orange bar, whereas the red bar represents the term "innovation process" and the blue "innovation and creativity."
Source: Google Insights for Search
By contrast, India's interest in innovation (and Singapore's is similar) stretches across the range of terms. Interest is high in Six Sigma, ideas management, innovation management, product design, and in strategic terms like "adjacency."
Also notable, open innovation has visibly become more interesting globally, with a heavy concentration of data in Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, interest in Six Sigma is an area where the United States scores highly. From the data it appears that people across the world are catching on to open innovation strategies; and even though open approaches originated in the United States, the US is not as interested as competitor regions.
Digging a little deeper into the US-specific data, we can also see that the more future oriented term "Open Innovation" and the current in-vogue term "Design Thinking" are beginning to close on the very tools-based term "TRIZ" in the United States. TRIZ is a technique for orienting companies to future economic states as a starting point for invention today, and is widely deployed across Asia by companies like Samsung. Over the last few years, we found interest in TRIZ is losing ground to the less formal open and design paradigms, as you can see in the chart below:
TRIZ (Green) vs. Design Thinking (blue) and Open Innovation (red)
Source: Google Insights for Search
As you can see, exploring innovation through web interest has value. The enthusiastic interest of Asian users should send an important signal that Western companies — like those based out of America, Canada, and the UK — should do more to promote a broader base for their innovation cultures. However, this study is itself a signal that we can measure innovative cultures in ways that reflect real interest.
*Google Search does not operate in China, and therefore China's data is omitted from the results.
Haydn Shaughnessy is editor of Innovation Management, and a Visiting Fellow at nGenera Insight, where he writes on ecosystem management. Nick Vitalari is the Director of the Moxie Insight Enterprise Research Program.