Billboard er um BusinessWeek's Top 100 Innovative Companies

IDEO is on the rise, now at #16.

The chart includes various financial performance figures as well.

Obviously, they’ve defined innovation, enough to rank it.

Personally, I think it’s a bit of a silly exercise.

I find IDEO an interesting pick since I’ve heard about several companies getting redesign contracts after IDEO delivered unusable or impractical design solutions.

Apparently on some things they have become so innovative that their recommendations require companies wait ten years for technology to become available so implementation can actually occur.

If you look at their website they also haven’t added any substantial work to their portfolio in something like five years. Their news archive is nothing but a long list of speaking engagements from their execs and little else.

I guess they’ve just becoming really good at talking about innovation, not so good at actually delivering it.

I’ve heard (and experienced) the same there mm.

A few odd ones:

Why is Jet Blue way down the list at 44? and Southwest is 25?

How the heck is Walmart over Target (I guess a lame attempt at ripping off Target’s ad style is innovative?)

Woolworths made the list?

Porsche is more innovative than BMW? (since when did rebadging a VW SUV and marking up a hardtop version of your most popular entry level product become innovation?)

…interesting list. What are your thoughts Steve? I’m curious.

How the heck is Walmart over Target (I guess a lame attempt at ripping off Target’s ad style is innovative?)

Thats pretty funny, especially since about 6 months ago I did some freelance concept work for a POP design firm that turned out to be for Walmart. The photos they sent me as a style guide where of displays from Target.

The article (Bloomberg - Are you a robot?) indicates that they had BCG do a survey to determine the ranking.

How did they determine who to survey? Were they calling up known leaders and asking them about other companies? Or were they calling up candidates for the list and asking them about their own innovation practices in order to assess them objectively? Was it a popularity contest or an assessment?

What were they asking in this survey, and how did they use the results?

They acknowledge that they used a methodology to make this list, but not what the actual methodology was. I guess if it’s got BCG and BW on it, we’re just going to take it as fact. When of course, it’s subjective.

But really, I think it’s all BS. Same as Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time, or anyone else’s ranking. We’re living in a VH1 culture when ranking stuff seems to be the only way to present information.

The article (linked above) was interesting to skim, although why they quote Stone Yamashita about ethnography seems inappropriate, since the quote is really saying that they are the experts, not the people being designed for.

Seems like inspirational examples is more helpful than an absolute ranking. If you are going to put numbers on it, there had better be a reason, for me, or you just seem silly.

The exercise is not only silly, but totally pointless.

top 5 things to have with eggs?
Top 10 songs to play on a monday morning (nick hornby)?
Top 100 innovative companies?

I enjoy ranking things as much as the next guy, but seriously?
How do you measure innovation? What is the unit of measurement?
Is it Angstroms?

I think it’s measured in KilaJoules…or Fathoms…definitely Fathoms! No, perhaps Hectares…

Not much cred to a ranking with no quantitative method of measurement. Without something to actually measure, it’s reduced to “a Top 100 ranking of my opinion on (insert topic)…”

According to The top 100 most innovative companies (BW) | Scott Berkun who is obviously a better close reader than I am (I lazily skimmed but found nothing)

The rankings were determined by votes from 1000 executives from large corporations


Maybe they should ask a pannel of Industrial Designers which companies have the best customer service. Or the best logistics.

“let’s ask the group of people (generally) most resistent to innovation, which companies are best at innovation”

Once again on this board, the misuse of design buzz words.
Innovation = Commidity

I can’t discern any logic to the rankings.

I’d like to run this list through a filter consisting of the amount of publications any one of these companies has been in, focusing on how they bring innovation into the company as part of the product development process. Or run the companies through Larry Keeley’s Ten Types of Innovation list.

IDEO is a no-brainer, despite their reputed non-executable design solutions: they re-invent the way they work all the time.

It’s more a list of who did the most marketing and created the most buzz about their product offerings, rather than the processes that got the products made. Not that marketing and launch strategies can’t be innovative; it’s just one species of innovation.

Since it was done by BCG, I would give it the benefit of a doubt. You can take can take the survey here:

I don’t know if that is the actual survey BCG used to determine the rankings or if they used this survey to develop the survey to determine the rankings. I say that because the above survey and the one that immediately follows when you finish the first are about the metrics to determine innovation. I also doubt BCG would put any proprietary information of the web for any yutz (like me) to steal. The survey I did was pretty nuts and bolts.

Please remember, innovation can be more than just a cool product. Wal-mart over Target is a no brainer - their distribution system and their dealings with suppliers are second to none. Jet Blue may have a slick marketing campaign but they are just a me-too to the trailbrazing done by Southwest. Woolworths - I have no clue. Porsche you could argue (I don’t know how effectively though) entered a completely alien segment and did very well with it. Yes it was a rebadge but is was a risk that payed off. Ideo got on because of good PR.

IMO, BCG probably did an excellent job of taking something that could be very subjective and made it objective. I thing IDers are more likely to be subjective to a subject that is so close to home.

Nice job, iab, how did you track that down?

(I’m not so willing to blindly approve of something just because it comes from BCG; I don’t know them enough to automatically qualify something that has their tag; but that may simply be inexperience on my part)

Good points iab, Walmart’s distribution is amazing (borderline scary how efficient it is)

Interesting that WL Gore came in at 45 when Fast Company called it the #1.

Blame it on the methodology, actual vs. assumed.

The “ask a thousand executives” methodology actually helps me. Even though we know it’s bogus, at least I know which names to drop with my CEO when I talk about Innovation.

The list reads more like an annual customer database for full-page ads in Business Week and more correctly identifies those companies with excellent marketing of their brand as innovative.

Toyota must be innovative because they are pushing hybrid technology. What about one of the bus mfg companies… with all of the various alternative prototypes being tested on urban streets. At 15K miles annual, a Prius might save 175 gallons of fuel over a Focus. But a hybrid bus is expected to save 5000 gallons annually.

Of course Intel is innovative, because Apple just bought their CPU. What about one of the other chip companies, like Texas Instruments. Maybe half of all the new digital amplifiers use these chips. At double the efficiency of their analog counterparts, that’s a huge savings in energy usage… image if there were only a million of these things. Oh wait, there are millions of these things.

Walmart is not innovative. They are pushing the use of RFID tracking so they can enhance their demographic research. And all this without due care into how these technologies impact the very consumers that make up their customer base.

And Microsoft?! As much as the top 25 companies have extensive research departments, there is a disconnect when it comes to developing products based on their latest research. I don’t see anything coming out of their media lab except press releases.

Once again, marketing departments can take a bow for rankings that have little to do with the development of new products from research into cutting edge technology.


this stems out of wall street strategists working for brokers that produce simillar reports when analysing market. hurling subjective positive or negative points with graphs, etc is the usuall format you find on these reports.
to do it like a survey report on innovation is like a teaser to invite investment.
sony-ericsson is ranked 35 when recently they offered an iranian student $5 mil euros for his patent on recharging batteries without pluging in to an external electrical source.

No, just good sense. I found that survey too and have bones to pick with it. But also pulled apart another BCG (who are BW’s BFF it seems) survey on emerging markets and “what companies need to do to succeed in INdia/China” published somewhere in BusinessWeek on March 24th

it says a bunch of standard stuff but nothing about getting to know the citizens of India/China i.e. users / customers what have you

First, finding the survey was easy enough, just had to look on BCG’s website. Obviously no single company is perfect but there is no reason to dismiss their work because of an opinion expressed in a few blogs. For business consulting McKinsey, BCG and Bain are the best. McKinsey is even on the list at 75 (ironically, tied with Woolworths).

I would also like to emphasize the survey posted and the results are probably a small portion of the overall scope of their program. Public disclosure means either they were doing it on their dime or their client let them release some of the findings. Either way, BCG is not going fully expose themselves so other companies can steal their methodology. I have no direct experience with BCG but I do with Bain. I have seen what is disclosed publically and what the client keeps for themselves - there is a BIG gap.

As for not asking the customer what’s important when entering India and China, it seems the six bullet points had to do with operational issues and not customer relationship issues. The two are usually kept separate in corporations. You do have a point that operational issues could have a customer centric focus, it is possible but may have not been a part of the scope of the program and the customer did not want to pay for it. It could be a part of a different program. It also may have been in the full report and was edited from the Business Week article.

Also, for non-consumer products and services, which I think accounts for 1/3 of the US economy, and pardon my French, who gives a flying f*** about the end user. IDers tend to only care about the person using the product and I would guess that most of the time in business to business situations the end user has little influence on the purchase of the product or service. I can’t speak for all non-consumer products but in the medical device industry I would estimate 95% of the end users (typically technicians and nurses) have about 5-10% say if the device should be used or which brand of device should be used. I am certainly not saying they should be dismissed but in the overall scheme, they are low on the totem.

“crackpot bloggers”

Anyway, here’s the jpg from BusinessWeek demonstrating the ‘results’ of BCG’s survey, witness the categories,

The original questions from the survey itself are:
Developing totally new products/services for new customers
Developing totally new products/services for existing customers
Making improvements that enhance/change existing products/services
Reducing product/service costs (e.g., modify design, use cheaper materials, etc.)

The answer choices are:
Extremely Important Somewhat Important Important Not Important At All

And from the above question and answer choices they get this result?

From which the most glaring inconsistency to my undereducated bloggish eye are the 29% allocated to the segment “Creating new products or services for new customers” and the 21% allocated to the segment just below it in the chart to “new products or services for new customers”

If you can tell me what that implies, I would be grateful.

So the end user is not the person using the product?