top 10 no more

Bloomberg released its Innovation Index, and South Korea comes out on top. The US, which lead the rankings in the first year (2013) fell out of the top ten. These types of metrics can be problematic – for instance number of patents issued gets factored in and that can be about innovation or about…filing patents. There are immigration factors at play as well, but one thing is certain – the US doesn’t hold a monopoly on innovation. Rather, it seems to be sliding to the middle of the pack, and now is head-to-head with China on this index as well as in other areas.

Is this a worrisome indicator or more artifact of the method? Like most things, probably a little from column A, a little from column B. Innovation is a tough topic. We say we value it, but some of the things that are required during innovation – like failing – tend to be avoided by groups that are either risk averse or focused on “looking good.” Embracing innovation requires shifts in mindset and metrics. Good quarterly numbers or stock price likely don’t correlate with innovation jumps. Similarly, not clear that having a bunch of patents indicates creativity and innovation. It is rather evident that fostering creativity and innovation will take some different ways of thinking about good/bad/indifferent. In the meantime, maybe curiosity should be rewarded rather than just quantifiable judgements (test scores, number of publications, etc.). This also begs myriad questions about K-12 education, higher education, life-long education. The what/how/why we learn needs a reboot. The digital world is a very different place…

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