Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Want to be innovative, speaking English helps

I read an interesting piece on HBR this morning which highlighted how countries with high proficiency in English language are more innovative.

The report is quick to point out that of course, correlation does not equal causation.

'It’s important to remember that English proficiency and metrics of innovation are both correlated with other measurements of economic and social strength, such as the Human Development Index.'

However, it adds: 'When we think of innovation, we tend to think of smart, technically trained people sitting in a room coming up with game-changing ideas. But innovation is just as much a function of connections—of a person’s or team’s ability to access global information networks and work alongside others with relevant skills.'

David Cushman on Twitter responded to my tweet on the point, adding it is 'basic group forming network theory. One extra node on a network doubles its value.'

Previously when I've been asked about innovation I've described how it comes from spotting an opportunity and seizing the moment, gathering support, and being lucky.

At the time I had thought innovation was all about spotting a problem that needed solving, having an idea, giving it a try, measuring if it worked, if it did crack on, if it didn't what did you learn. Repeat.

But I hadn't really considered the importance of your ability to connect that idea, or strength test it vs other ideas already out there.

Being English helps. Or should I say being able to communicate in English helps.

HBR adds there are some clear reasons why countries with strong English proficiency tend to thrive in the innovation sector.

'English skills allow innovators to read primary scientific research, form international collaborations, bring in talent from overseas, and participate in conferences. English proficiency expands the number of possible connections innovators can make with the ideas and people they need to generate original work.'

I'm lucky to have English as a first language, privileged really. It's about time I appreciated that and was more conscious of the advantage it offers innovators like myself*.

*Describing yourself as an innovator sounds like a massive humble brag. I qualify it only as a badge others have labeled me with. I was chuffed to be recognised by The Holmes Report as one of their top 25 innovators in the EMEA region.

They describe the list as follows:

'Our first Innovator 25 class in EMEA takes a glimpse at our industry’s future, shining the light on those individuals who are shaping what influence and engagement will look like tomorrow. The people recognised here come from various corners of the industry — creative strategy, digital execution, influencer mapping, storytelling — but together they represent a compelling picture of what marketing and communications represents in the modern era.'

So there. Brag over.

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