Forbes just came out with its list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, and the usual suspects are there: Amazon, Salesforce.com, Apple, Google, Altera, Boston Scientific, NetApp, Citirix Systems, Emerson Electric, Campbell’s Soup…
Wait, Campbell’s Soup?
Yes, Campbell’s is indeed listed. The company I work for didn’t make the grade but then I’m not surprised. Like many organizations impacted by a downtrend in business, one of the first items it cut was R&D funding.
Examining the list more closely, I noticed that there was an “Innovation Premium” and a rank for each company according to this statistic. The fine print said:
The Innovation Premium is a measure of how much investors have bid up the stock price of a company above the value of its existing business based on expectations of future innovative results (new products, services and markets) . Members of the list must have $10 billion in market capitalization, spend at least 1% of their asset base on R&D and have seven years of public data.
Okay, now this list makes sense -– especially the rankings.
I sent the list to a number of colleagues both within and outside my organization. As techies, we all love lists like this. Within minutes I received a number of comments about how Campbell’s Soup made the list but their organization did not. It’s funny how we all zeroed in on the same thing.
After the fifth such remark from a colleague — and having been in R&D for over 20 years — I had to weigh in. My message: If you want an innovative and creative organization you have change the way people think, not only at the top but across the board. The first step is to remove self-limiting thoughts and reasons why something can’t be accomplished (though you do have to respect the laws of physics and nature).
Next, thinking innovatively and creatively is something that can be learned. Its basis is changing your perspective to expand on possibilities until you see something you were unable to see before. Think of a wide-to-telephoto lens. Using the telephoto setting you see things close up. When you shift to the wide-angle you get a whole new perspective — a bigger picture.
So now a couple of questions: Using your own definition, is your organization innovative? Do you think you’re innovative in your work?
Later that evening, I attended an ACM technical meeting on User Interface Design at HP’s offices on Wolf Road in Cupertino. As I drove up, I noticed a large word, “Innovate.” Hmmm, were they on the list? Well, no. That begs the question: Is this a message to the rank and file employees, or to management?
Note: The author owns shares of stock in Amazon.com, Apple, Google, Boston Scientific, NetApp, and HP.