Are Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland the three best countries in the world? You might think so based on the latest rounds of research.
In the past, I’ve reported on the World Happiness Report (WHR) and the Global Innovation Index (GII). Both studies are produced regularly and measure a country’s ability to promote specific outcomes. The WHR measures how happy a country’s citizens are and why. The GII measures how effectively a country promotes and protects innovation, especially in regards to scientific and technical innovation.
In a previous article, I compared happiness and innovation. There seems to be a connection, though it’s difficult to say whether happiness promotes innovation or vice versa. Or perhaps some hidden, third variable promotes both. (By the way, I’ve also written about how happiness is measured).
This year, in addition to the updated versions of WHR and GII, I’ve added another — FutureBrand’s Country Brand Index (CBI) — that measures the strength of a country’s brand. Now in its eighth edition, CBI asks citizens of many countries to judge the most attractive countries to produce “future-positive predictions”. WHR and GII aim to measure the actual phenomenon — either happiness or innovation. CBI measures perceptions; how is a country perceived by citizens of other countries.
Putting together the three studies reveals a great deal of overlap. In the table below, I’ve listed the top ten countries in each report. Countries that make the top ten in all three studies are in red. Countries that reach the top ten in two studies are in blue. Countries that make the list in one study are in purple.
Switzerland is ranked number one in the CBI and GII studies and number three in the WHR study. It’s happy and innovative and has a positive reputation.
All of the Nordic countries — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden — make at least one of the top ten lists. Sweden and Finland make all three. Denmark and Norway make two. Tiny Iceland makes one.
The USA makes the top ten in brand and innovation but ranks only 17th in happiness.
The lists are dominated by European Protestant countries or their offspring. Asia is represented by only three countries — Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. African and Latin American countries don’t make any of the top ten lists. The degree of overlap makes me wonder exactly what we’re measuring in these studies. It could be that happiness, innovation, and brand power are intimately related and that these studies measure the strength of the relationship. On the other hand, this could be an example of cultural bias. Or it could be a halo effect. Countries that are successful in one area may be viewed as successful in other areas as well. Of course, the reverse may also be true.
I plan to delve into each of these studies more closely in the future. In the meantime, please review the table below and help me sort out the relationship between the variables and the countries. What causes what?