If it isn’t enough that we lag Americans in innovation performance, this study will add to the Canadian national angst by showing that we as individuals also lag Americans in our attitudes to innovation. For this study, we have defined innovation as the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay. Innovation is more than about inventing but about getting those inventions accepted in the marketplace.

We set out to look at five dimensions of innovative attitudes including:

  • Willingness to take risks
  • Independence
  • Financial drive
  • Grit
  • Drive to innovate

We selected these characteristics after a review of literature on the subject. Unfortunately there does not seem to be consensus on which attitudes are essential to successful innovation. We felt however that these dimensions covered a wide range of potential attitudes. To conduct the study, we asked 1,000 knowledge workers about their attitudes to innovation, receiving responses from 600 Americans and 400 Canadians.

A greater percentage of Americans look at innovation more positively than Canadians. American respondents score higher in almost every personality trait that is thought to drive innovation at the level of the individual

Our study found that 29% more American knowledge workers have a strongly positive attitude towards innovation than Canadians who have the same attitude:

  • 38% more American managers are positive towards innovation than Canadians.
  • 23% more American employees are positive.

Canada’s competitiveness hinges on our ability to innovate, and our hope may lie in future generations. In many of the dimensions of innovation, Canadian respondents 35 and under approach—and in one case exceed—the percentage of Americans with positive attitudes to Innovation. Americans who have strongly positive attitudes only exceed Canadians in this age group by 20%. (Americans over 44 exceed Canadians by 44%.)

This is by no means an exhaustive or academically rigorous study. Our intention is to add to the conversation about innovation and identify some reasons why we lag much of the developed world and what we can do about it.

Attitudes to innovation are a good starting point in the broader study of innovation. Attitudes matter because they set the tone. Attitudes can permeate from an individual to larger social networks and govern the organizations and businesses in which these individuals participate.