Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization have recently launched the Global Innovation Index.This new index looks at the university education, patents and publication of scientific research in order to rank different countries and how innovative they are. I think this is a good start in terms of a new index to measure innovation, but there are still some gaps in it.
For starters, the new innovation index only focuses on the top three schools in each country and only focuses on patents in certain countries and specific publications. Everyone seems to have difficulty measuring innovation, but I think we look at innovation the wrong way. We need to remember that innovation can be game changing and disruptive, but it can also be an incremental improvement, and anything in between. This index is really only looking at game changing innovation on a global scale. But what about a country that is great at making incremental improvements and enhancements to things that already exist? Are they any less innovative than another country? According to this index, the answer is yes.
We need to look at innovation as the creation of something productive and useful. Organizations can measure innovation by measuring new ideas and enhancements that have become a commercial success. They can measure the percentage of their revenue represented by those new ideas. Why not look at something similar here? Only looking at the top schools is like an organization measuring innovation purely based on their best ideas and the ones that worked. The index really tells us who has the best ideas from a global perspective, which may or may not equivocate to being the most innovative.
Why not look at how many ideas have been successfully used or put into practice. Or ones that have become commercially viable, or made an improvement somewhere? What’s the point of innovation if it doesn’t make a difference in the way someone does something? Measuring patents is important, but what if those patents never get used? A critical element of innovation is execution. If we only measure the number of ideas, or patents, or citations, then we are only seeing half of the picture. We need to also consider what is being done with those ideas and patents and citations. Are they being turned into something that we can use to improve our lives? Now that’s an index worth reading about.