What's the World's Most Innovative Nation?

Last Updated Oct 28, 2008 8:37 AM EDT

  • High tech toilet seats in Japan.The Find: It's no surprise that gadget crazy Japan tops the table in terms of fastest uptake of new technology, but who would have expected four Nordic nations to round out the top five? The US limps in at sixth.
  • The Source: A report entitled "The Global Takeoff of New Products: Culture, Wealth, or Vanishing Differences," co-authored by two marketing professors, Deepa Chandrasekaran of Lehigh University and Gerard J. Tellis of USC's Marshall School of Business.
The Takeaway: The study, published in the latest issue of Marketing Science, looks at 31 nations and 16 different product categories over 50 years to determine how long it takes innovations to take off in various countries, with the researchers claiming their work "is among the most comprehensive research of its kind." After sifting the data, what six countries claimed the top slots?
  1. Japan
  2. Norway
  3. Sweden
  4. The Netherlands
  5. Denmark
  6. The United States
In Japan, it takes an average of 5.4 years for a new technology to take off. In the US, it takes 6.2 years. What accounts for the difference between nations? Wealth obviously plays a role. The places at the bottom of the innovation table were all held by relatively less affluent countries (India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and China), but culture is also a factor. For example, "newly developed or developing countries, like South Korea and Venezuela, saw faster product takeoff times than more established Mediterranean nations with longer histories of industrialization."

The report also compares product categories, noting that on average "fun" products (like mp3 players) take off five years faster than "work products" (like microwaves). "Fun products... could be introduced simultaneously across nations (a 'sprinkler' strategy), while the introduction of appliances and other work-related technologies should be staggered ('waterfall') for maximum impact," the report concludes.

The Question: Why do the Nordic countries beat out the US in the race to take up new technology?

(Image of high-tech, Japanese toilet seats by bato93, CC2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.