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February 01, 2013

Germany Touted as Most Forward Thinking Country

By Colleen Lynch, TMCnet Contributor

How exactly do you calculate which county in the world is the most innovative? Why, leave it to the Warwick Business School, of course!

In all seriousness, Associate Professor Dr. Tobias Preis of the Warwick Business School, in conjunction with Dr. Helen Susannah Moat of the University College of London have compiled what is known as the Future-Orientation Index. The index takes a look at Google (News - Alert) searches, and which country had the most future-related searches, compared to which had the most past-related ones.

The calculation may seem nearly impossible, but it is actually pretty simple. The professors analyzed billions (45 billion, to be exact) of Google logs from 2012, honing in on searches containing “2013” in comparison with searches containing “2011.”

This is the second time the enlightening list has been compiled, with the first being in 2011. That year, the U.K. held the top spot for future-related searches, but this year another country has bumped it off, proving to be the most future-looking of all countries in the world—Germany.

Some may be wondering what Google searches have to do with the actuality of a country’s future-leaning culture and business practices, but Preis has an answer for that. 

“We find a strong tendency for countries in which Google users enquire more about the future to exhibit a larger per capita GDP,” explained Preis. “There seems to be a relationship with the economic success of a country and the information seeking behavior of its citizens online.”

Moat concurred, and added why they think this is so: “We see two leading explanations for

this relationship between search activity and GDP. Firstly, these findings may reflect international differences in attention to the future and the past, where a focus on the future supports economic success. Secondly, these findings may reflect international differences in the type of information sought online, perhaps due to economic influences on available Internet infrastructure.”

Moat hails from UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, while Preis works with Behavioral Science and Finance at Warwick. The two decided on Germany’s taking the top spot this year for their index based on searches related to 2013 and the country’s upcoming general elections, which are scheduled for later this year.

The U.K. may have taken the top position in 2012 because of the fact that it held the Olympic Games, Preis and Moat assume.

This year, Japan took second place, Switzerland took third, and the U.K. fell to fourth place. The most past-interested countries (those at the bottom ranks) include Pakistan, Vietnam and Kazakhstan.

It is also interesting to note that Nigeria is the country which made the steepest climb in the charts, indicating a massive shift in the country’s general thinking from the past towards the future. Nigeria moved up 15 places this year in comparison with the last Index.

Edited by Jamie Epstein
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