The latest issue of Fast Company has their list of the 50 Most Innovative Companies. There are countless insights hidden away in this list and I strongly recommend reading through them all. Some of them are innovative in their technology, which is typically what we think of. But others innovate their business model, their customer experience, and other parts of the design process.
I plan to break this into two posts. Next week, I am going to share some thing I learned from reading the editorial at the front of the magazine (you can read ahead now if you wish ☺). Today I want to stick to a few things I got from the article as a whole. And then maybe some other time I might discuss some of the specific companies, since many of their innovations have direct relevance for human factors, ergonomics, safety, user experience, and many other of our subdisciplines.
Let me start off with a no-brainer. Stock prices are poor measures of innovation. Many companies have soaring valuations because of hype or basic cost-cutting. But even revenue and profit numbers are often not very diagnostic for innovation. Fast Company does a really good job at parsing out the innovations that are truly exceptional and worthy of ranking in the Top 50.
They don’t limit themselves to patents and copyrights. Intellectual property is a reasonable sign of innovation, but not the only one. Many things can’t be protected, such as fashion design. Innovations in customer service delivery is also pretty hard to protect legally, but can demonstrate innovation.
Innovation is not just about creativity. Many publications come out with their Most Creative lists. But innovation has two steps. First, you need the divergent thinking necessary to generate many ideas that span different objectives, use cases, sciences (social sciences too), etc. I don’t want to end this list because that would not be very divergent of me.
Then you need convergent thinking. Can you combine these ideas into new and value-adding combinations and integrations? And then implement the package in a way that adds customer-value, company-value, and makes it through the change management process? This is part of innovation as well.
Take a look at the 50 companies on the list and add your favorite one to the comments section. Give us a sentence or two about why you like it. I will try to put together a summary after a week or two to compile your thoughts.
Image Credit: Drew Coffman