Forbes, Fast Company, and Business Week are among the most popular and discussed list keepers of the world’s most innovative companies. These lists are built on the idea that special people from companies like Amazon, Apple, BMW, Facebook, SpaceX and others excel when it comes to creating and managing businesses and have proved it in the marketplace. The success of visionaries and creative people in small shops, garages and dorm rooms is quite different from trying to re-create the same magic after the company has become a multinational.
DNA Of Innovation
In a book called “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators” author Jeff Dyer outlines characteristics of people like Steve Jobs and describes the skills commonly seen in successful innovators. First is generating the right questions and experimenting with them to obtain new information, second is observing what is going on in a company with the eyes of a child, third is networking with people involved in all aspects of a business and finding newer, quicker and easier ways to communicate and get things done Fourth is experimentation: this involves deconstructing and rebuilding everything to find ideas and processes. Finally, use associative thinking by pulling diverse ideas together and seeing if they bear fruit. It is not surprising, according to Dyer, that companies following this approach have higher stock valuations than companies that don’t foster innovation.
Following is a Harvard Business Review Video in which Dyer provides many examples of the origin of innovative ideas:
Categories of Innovative Companies
An interesting way to view innovative companies is by industry or by country. The following image shows Fast Company’s categories along with the most innovative countries and regions.
Keeping a Culture of Innovation Alive & Well
Just 10 years ago Apple was a company that was written off as in decline and no longer relevant, but restoring a culture of innovation that had been rooted out by former management gave it new life and now it leads the world.
BMW , another very large company, tries to get back to its roots each time it calls upon its managers to develop a new product. At such times 200 to 300 engineers, designers, production managers, finance executives and marketing people are brought to the company’s research center for up to three years.
These large companies are thinking of things like the ratio of the number of products developed to the number of successful products, ROI on innovative products, and important metrics such as price premiums and ethnographic trends. Large companies can also tap the experience of their tens of thousands or millions of users transforming customer insights into new inventions.
Recent news reports have indicated that some believe we are living in a time of scant innovation. The history of great companies shows that they value creative individuals during both good times and bad. It is tempting when budgets are tight to cut research and development but more and more CEOs are showing a commitment to creativity in a more competitive world.
In fact the best companies nurture a culture of creativity as we have seen again and again with companies like Apple. The best companies choose unique paths and look to the future while less agile companies stick with old, obsolete or broken models and attempt to manage inertia with budget-cutting, layoffs and other penny saving schemes.
Innovative companies question conventional ideas and are quick to identify dogma: existing views and ways of thinking that are comfortable to contemplate but that no longer are connected with reality and good results.