“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”  — Steve Jobs

A list of the most innovative companies was recently released by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and it shows how innovation is changing. Of the top ten companies, four are cloud-based businesses, and two-thirds rely on big data and social networks for innovation ideas. The impacts of strong commitment to technology and especially use of data decisions are unmistakably present. The only “traditional” manufacturer in the top ten is Toyota, and we all know their commitment to innovation.

As students of innovation, these lists can offer insight into strategies these companies use. The BCG agency that created the list highlights some additional points:

  • Under Armour has joined the list for the first time based on its commitment to electronic integration (something more door and window companies are considering);
  • The innovators cast a wide net for ideas using all available technology;
  • They internalize outside innovation ideas and do not rely on only internal ideas, and;
  • They use innovation systems to manage strategy and development.

Perhaps more importantly, they set the innovation tone at the top of the organization, and they make it a priority to send their people out into the industry to see and experience new ideas. As we have noted in past blogs, this is one of the best investments a company can make.

In a famous story of innovation at Apple, it was reported that they did not invent the computer mouse or the graphical user interface but saw it during a tour of Xerox. This is partly true, but the Xerox team had traveled to Stanford and had seen an earlier example of how a computer screen cursor could be moved with a pointing device to speed up use. Both of these innovation teams learned how the concepts could work by traveling and investigating ideas outside their company walls. Plan now to get your team out to your vendors, customers and raw material suppliers to start your investments in gathering ideas.

Our industry can only remain strong if we use this information and adopt theses types of strategies. In fact, at the last American Architectural Manufacturers Association conference, a new innovation committee was formed to start looking into the changes and needs of the industry. As this committee gets to work, it will allow a better insight into technologies that can help. Please join this group.

Keep innovating!


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