Worry Not, Obama: GE’s “Global Innovation Barometer” Puts U.S. on Top

A survey with 1,000 executives worldwide places the U.S. well ahead of runners-up Germany and Japan. The execs push for individual creativity, small businesses, and local needs.



Last night, in his State of the Union address, President Obama used the word “innovation” nine times and called on Americans to “out-innovate…the rest of the world.” According to GE, we already do.

A new GE-commissioned survey offers what the company calls its “global innovation barometer.” After interviewing 1,000 top execs worldwide, the firm GE hired to conduct the survey found that the United States is already seen as the leader in innovation (with Japan and Germany a comfortable distance behind). The survey also found that while innovation was needed globally, executives believe individual creativity will drive innovation, and that innovation must be tailored to fit local needs.

The survey was done by StrategyOne, a research and consulting firm, which conducted phone interviews over the past month with executives in 12 countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Sweden, and the U.S.

In the assessment of GE’s chief marketing officer Beth Comstock, the survey reveals that “the rules around innovation are changing.” Fully 95% of those surveyed felt that innovation was the “main lever” in economic competitiveness, while 88% thought innovation was the best way to create jobs. Over three-quarters felt innovation was important not simply to create more profits, but to improve health care and energy security. The U.S. was viewed as the most innovative country (67% thought it so), trailed by Germany (44%), Japan (43%), and China (35%).

A few other top findings of the survey:

  • most respondents think innovation will be “totally different” in the 21st century, and will originate from small and medium-sized enterprises
  • innovation must be tailored to “local market needs,” according to 76% of those surveyed
  • individual creativity was widely seen (69%) as a more important driver of innovation than high-level scientific research
  • Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brazil, and India were the four countries most optimistic about innovation, i.e., felt that it was most likely that innovation would improve the lives of citizens (China and Japan, while viewed as top innovators, had executives who were the least optimistic)

An infographic from GE summarizes yet more findings.


[Image: Flickr user enerva]



About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal