Risk, Observation, and Measurement for the World’s Most Innovative Companies

by Robert F Brands

Risk, Observation, and Measurement for the World’s Most Innovative Companies

Every year Fast Company reveals its list of the world’s most innovative companies of the year. With the topic of innovation front and center, Fast Company considers themselves to be a progressive media brand “written for, by, and about the most progressive business leaders”.

For the most part, this year’s top 10 listing comes as no surprise presenting Nike, Amazon, Square, Splunk, Fab, and Uber as the top 6 champions of innovation.

Initially I had thought to only mention the top five, but for turning the taxi and town-car industry upside down, I thought Uber deserved a mention as well. After all, it is not often that a company takes on innovation in an industry dating back to the early 1700’s.  But then again, who would have thought you could turn the soap industry on its head with foaming soap dispensers? It goes to show that no industry old or new is without room to improve.

First place on the list, Nike was highlighted for their culture of pushing boundaries which resulted in not just one, but two groundbreaking inventions in the past year. The first is the fuel band, a relatively affordable electronic bracelet that measures movement through the day; whether you go out for a run, play a sport, or just walk around the grocery store.  Their second breakout invention is the Flyknit Racer, a feather-light knitted shoe that required Nike to re-invent their entire manufacturing process.

Not many companies, much less a company already successful and thriving, would take such a big risk in the name of innovation. However, Nike knows that in order to sustain innovation, risks must be undertaken. No Risk: No Innovation.  Put another way, No guts, no glory. Nike CEO Mark Parker puts it aptly, “Companies fall apart when their model is so successful that it stifles thinking that challenges it.”

Amazon took second place in Fast Company’s most innovative list for their innovations in product delivery. As FC puts it, “Amazon introduced same-day shipping in seven major U.S. markets more than three years ago, but the e-commerce giant’s significant 2012 expansion of its next-day and same-day delivery services was a jolt: The entire retail industry seemed to realize its power.”

Third Place went to Square for enabling credit card transactions on mobile devices. Fourth Place was given to Splunk for bringing big data to the masses. Fifth place was for Fab which matured last year from 3-day flash sales to dozens of online boutiques for niche shoppers, and 6th place as you know, went to Uber.

It was a welcome surprise to see Splunk on the list, especially among the top 5 most innovative companies of 2013. Splunk makes sense of “big data” by monitoring, collecting, and indexing it in real time, creating opportunities for its clients to improve business operations and save money. – J.J Mccorvey.

Innovation is meaningless without attaching measurable goals to an initiative. What gets measured gets done, and Splunk is leading the world in helping companies observe and measure data important to them. Observation, measurement and tracking of new product development results are essential to optimal ROI. Often times, magazine editors and innovation bloggers forget that leading indicators and past performance is no guarantee for success, so it is especially nice to see Fast Company picking this innovation champion out of the pile.

Are you on the right track to sustainable innovation? Are you considering the correct elements to bring “one new product to market” each year?

The best way to assess how far you are in creating and sustaining innovation is to first do an Innovation Evaluation or Audit. Innovationcoach.com has an online in-depth evaluation that is designed to gauge strength and weakness of key Innovation Imperatives to create and sustain innovation.  Audit results will show immediately and will be emailed to you, followed by an optional one hour phone consultation. Risk requires investment (people, time, capital), and willingness to invest without ROI assurance. For coaching and techniques to encourage initiative and Innovation you can read more the RROI Blog here.

image credit: fastco.com

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robert brandsRobert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival,” with Martin Kleinman – published Spring 2010 by Wiley (www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com).

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  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think I am on the right track since I am a risk taker who takes initiative to turn my ideas into reality. The listed companies inspire many entrepreneurs to push for innovation the trick is sustaining it and keeping your team sustained in reaching the goals set out from the start.

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