Innovation: Perspective Matters, But Many Simply Lack Vision

Recently both BusinessWeek and Fast Company published their respective 50 most innovative companies list.  I have “mashedup” both lists in the chart below and edited the lists a bit. (Where there is overlap I indicate the difference in ranking order between lists.)  There was much to garner from these lists, beyond the corporate rankings individually.

What struck me first about these two lists was the degree of difference. Only 15 companies made each list; meaning each list had 35 different named companies. How could that be? Well its perspective, and I call this out because it is analogous to what we teach as the importance of corporate culture to an innovation practice. How does your company view innovation? What is considered innovative? What “gets the bosses attention?” These issues  dramatically effect the way innovation is executed and valued.  In the case of Fast there seems to be greater emphasis (though not exclusively) on disruptive innovation. There is a bit more focus on entrepreneurial start-ups, smaller companies doing new and different things in a market. This list uniquely includes companies such as First Solar, Spotify, Alidi Sud, Glam Media and Quantcast.

BusinessWeek appears to be (again not exclusively) more focused on established larger corporations that are doing incremental innovation to strengthen market dominance.  This list uniquely includes companies such as Toyota, Nintendo, Sony, Nokia, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase and Ford.

What struck me second were the 15 companies that made both lists  (i.e., Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Walmart, Amazon, GE, BMW, Disney, Cisco, Intel, Facebook and Nike). Of these, all but 2 are US-based firms. Even amongst the companies that did not make both lists, there is a respectable percentage of US-based firms. Despite much press of late to the contrary, the US, at least short-term,  based on these two lists, is not lagging in innovation.

The third thing that struck me was the degree to which many of these companies appear year after year. There were several other articles in each of these magazines that I encourage you to read, as well as others, including this one that discusses a study conducted by Bringham Young University on why innovation happens.  These articles point out that while most companies readily state that innovation is critical to success, few, in reality, do anything proactive about it. Few companies have a specific focus on innovation: a team, do training,  and practices etc.  IAI’s survey on innovation in 180+ companies supports this observation. Our study found that While 68% stated their organization believed that innovation should be managed as a corporate asset and process, only 49% have put in place any formal process to manage innovation. Similarly, only 49% have any form of executive management presiding over innovation.  More shockingly, perhaps is the fact that 46% of the organizations do not specifically reward innovation.

Too many business leaders believe that creative problem solving and innovation skills are inherent, either you have it or you don’t, but research seems to suggest otherwise. Jeff Dyer the conductor of the research at Bringham Young University stated “”I always thought creativity was genetic — that some people have it, some people don’t, and there’s not much you can do to get better at it,” But after conducting the study, Dyer thinks differently.  We at Information Architected agree.  In fact we dedicate a major part of our practice to dispelling that idea, and dare you to prove us wrong. We can show you how to change your corporate culture (and how to determine if it needs to be)  and how to instill a proactive innovation practice, complete with tools that hone each individual’s innovation skills and establish innovation as a corporate competency. We will take on any organization’s challenge and guarantee results. Come on – I dare ya. Learn more .

And here is a link to that chart I referred to:  InnovationTop50

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