Innovation is one of the most powerful tools an entrepreneur or company can have. Without it, even giant companies can fall behind. With it, a company can harvest success from what seems like failure.

You might think the biggest organizations -- or countries -- with the best access to resources have the greatest chance to embrace and stoke innovation. But, as it turns out, innovation is an attitude and often smaller and scrappier offers the advantage.

The World Economic Forum recently issued its 2016 report on national competitiveness. Innovation was a major factor. And Business Insider pulled the innovation scores for the nations with the highest scores in that regard. The results may surprise you, because some of countries most conventionally associated with innovation didn't do nearly as well as you might think. Here are the top 10 winners, along with their scores on a 1-to-7 scale.

Switzerland

Rank: 5.8

Comments: The WEF said that Switzerland benefits from "a very conducive policy environment and infrastructure, academic excellence, an unmatched capacity to attract the best talent, and large multinationals that are often leaders in their sector as well as a dense network of small- and medium-sized enterprises across sectors that has a reputation for quality and a strive for innovation." High collaboration between academic institutions and businesses "yields innovative products with commercial applications."

Israel

Rank: 5.7

Comments: Israel has long pushed innovation as important to its economy as well as to its geopolitical security. There is a great deal of government support and strong marketing to sell the value of its scientific and engineering capabilities to large multinationals.

Finland

Rank: 5.7

Comments: "Finland can count on its first-class, efficient, and transparent institutions and its high-quality education system," as the WEF found. Supporting the ability to innovate are "the excellent availability of scientists and engineers and a high degree of collaboration between universities and industry."

United States

Rank: 5.6

Comments: Yes, the US is tied for fourth place. Although business here is driven by innovation, government support for basic scientific research is not at the levels once afforded. Also, the country is not even in the top ten for primary education or infrastructure and suffers from an "inadequately educated workforce," "policy instability," "poor work ethic in national labor force," and tax issues.

Germany

Rank: 5.6

Comments: Some of the drivers of innovation are technological readiness, efficient use of talent, and decentralized management practices that drive worker involvement. Employees are able to be innovative and affect strategy and product design and delivery.

Sweden

Rank: 5.5

Comments: Higher education and training are strong, as is business sophistication and technological readiness. Companies understand that they need to embrace technology and innovation, not only through product and service design, but in how businesses operate.

Netherlands

Rank: 5.4

Comments: The country has top 10 ratings in infrastructure, higher education and training, technological readiness, and business sophistication, among other things. "The Netherlands scores especially high on the quality of its scientific research institutions (4th) and closeness of links between universities and the private sector (5th). Success stories of social innovation are particularly frequent in the Netherlands," the WEF found.

Japan

Rank: 5.4

Comments: "Japan features in the top 10 of five pillars," the WEF said. "It notably boasts an excellent infrastructure (5th) and firms are highly sophisticated (2nd), typically employing unique products and production processes (2nd) with significant control over international distribution (5th). High-quality research institutions (13th) and company spending on R&D (4th), coupled with an excellent availability of scientists and engineers (3rd), contribute to the country's overall highly innovative environment (5th)."

Singapore

Rank: 5.3

Comments: "It tops the higher education and training pillar and the goods market efficiency pillar, and ranks 2nd in a further five," according to the WEF. "Singapore's public institutions (2nd behind Finland) are transparent and highly efficient (1st on public-sector performance). Its infrastructures are among the world's best (2nd behind Hong Kong)."

Denmark

Rank: 5.1

Comments: Denmark had strong scores in infrastructure, health and primary education, higher education and training, technological readiness, and business sophistication. It did as well or better on all the measures of national competitiveness than Europe and North America.

Published on: Oct 18, 2016