When I was a boy I used to enjoy visiting my grandparents and one of my favorite objects in their living room was a globe where the countries would light up as different colors when I switched the globe on. After seeing all of these countries I would often go to the trusty Encyclopaedia Brittanica on the bookshelf to find out more about these places and what people actually did there. The power of maps is that they help us to think about where we are in relation to other people and places.
Last week I wrote a post about the significance of global connections for stimulating innovation and a few comments and tweets got me thinking about the importance of having a global innovation map. John Hagel tweeted that he wasn’t convinced that the global connections were more important than local, implying that both were probably important. The post resonated with Karen Fu in Singapore. If you live in Singapore the importance of international connections for creating wealth is strikingly obvious. Singapore exists because of these connections.
Ned Kumar left a comment to the effect that some places are the international hubs for certain skills and industries so therefore the value of local connections will be greater than international ones. I can’t fault the logic here, Ned. The research study I referred to in the post used a sample of Norwegian firms so the importance of international connections in most industries will be much greater in that country because of the relative size of the population.
After considering these comments, I think that we need have our own innovation globe to keep thinking about where we need to connect to in order to find the existing hubs of expertise and the emerging hotspots of new ideas and technology. It doesn’t have to be an exhaustive searching exercise but it probably does need to be done at least annually so we can at least see what we need to find out about (and Google is a whole lot more powerful and quicker than the encyclopaedia).
The Royal Society has just released a report on the global map of research and development. While the geography of the core of R&D still lies in Europe and the US it shows some very surprising trends about how quickly other centers are emerging as new leaders in science and technology.
The fast moving cities are mainly based on or near the Chinese coast with Sao Paolo in Brazil also emerging rapidly as a front runner. If I was a CEO of a business based in the old centers of Europe and the USA I’d be wanting to know exactly what was going on in these regions. While companies in Europe and the US might be in the clusters of today, they need international pipelines to reach out to the clusters of tomorrow.
Editor’s Note: You may also want to check out Braden Kelley’s article Building a Global Sensing Network
John Steen is a Lecturer in Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School. He blogs about innovation at the Innovation Leadership Network.