The 2016 Global Innovation Index (GII) confirms that innovation has become a truly global activity, enabled by digitization, reshaped by big data and analytics, and badly in need of new management systems. It is also a call to action for CIOs and information managers.

Co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) , the GII ranks 128 economies representing 92.8% of the world’s population and 97.9% of global GDP, based on 82 indicators of innovation capability.

This year's results saw little change at the top, with Switzerland placing first again, followed by perennial contenders Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. More interesting were signs of emerging innovation prowess among middle-income countries such as China and India. China moved up to No. 25, the first time a middle-income economy has cracked the GII Top 25.

However, the GII is more than a scorecard. It is also a guide for leaders navigating a new world of global innovation, and an inspiration for information executives at the intersection of business and technology. The GII covers innovation from an efficiency and cost perspective, but also offers guidance on value generation and growth.

Key indicators underlying the rankings show each country's strengths and weaknesses in critical areas, including ease of starting a business, ICT access and use, and educational levels. They provide useful, concrete data such as the average number of days it takes to start a new business in a particular location, or the number of women with advanced degrees in any given country.

An executive drilling down into GII data would learn where every country excels--for example, the U.K. has top-quality university programs, Iran leads in science and engineering graduates, and India exports the most ICT services. This country-specific information helps companies find talent, choose locations for new ventures, and decide where to expand existing operations. For example, Apple has recently established its first R&D center in China.

Yet even as they acknowledge the rise of collaboration and global innovation, many executives concede their organizations are not prepared to fully capitalize.

A survey conducted by IMP³rove Academy and A.T. Kearney, in conjunction with the GII, found that 57% of executive respondents say they don't have the right organization structures in place to manage innovation partnerships.

Information managers have a prime opportunity to take the lead in developing new models for innovation management. After all, innovation today almost always involves digitization, which requires specialized expertise found mostly in IT departments. This enables IT to link strategy, innovation and execution by bringing the right technology enablers to the business. Global innovation networks rely on digital technologies that allow organizations and individuals to collaborate wherever they may be. Location becomes irrelevant as online collaboration tools harness the brainpower of thousands around the world to increase the volume and pace of innovation. These include Spotfolio, the business-matching platform for innovative technology, with its Innovation Radar; Kaggle, which crowdsources the analysis of large data sets; and Innocentive, the marketplace where businesses, government, and humanitarian organizations solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards that reach into the millions.

Meanwhile, big data and analytics--themselves a result of recent innovation--are now changing innovation in important ways. Web crawlers scout and assess thousands of candidates, while data-driven methodologies measure and compare the capabilities of potential partners around the world. Google Ventures is using algorithms to comb vast troves of data for promising investment opportunities.

As innovation management adapts and evolves, IT may take on cross-functional roles in fostering innovation across the organization. IT can identify and evaluate new technologies, and build digital platforms that enable a manufacturing group to capitalize on the "Internet of Things," or help sales and marketing gather and interpret reams of customer data.

This new way of working internally, however, will require the same collaborative spirit that is redefining innovation in the wider world.

(About the Author: Martin Ruppert is the managing director of IMP³rove Academy, a non-profit subsidiary of global management consulting company A.T. Kearney. He is also an advisor to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on collaborative innovation. The IMP³rove Academy provides leading-edge support services in innovation management. Martin is based in Dusseldorf Germany and can be reached at martin.ruppert@improve-innovation.com. )

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