Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The World's Most Innovative Companies
By: Mark Borden, Bill Breen, Jeff Chu, Josh Dean, Rebecca Fannin, Amy Feldman, Charles Fishman, Paul Hochman, David Kushner, Mark Lacter, Robert Levine ,David Lidsky, Ellen McGirt, Danielle Sacks, Chuck Salter, Elizabeth Svoboda, Linda Tischler

This site summarizes their work on categorizing the most innovative companies. I will share a few of them at time to show the diversity of innovation in creating growth and competitive separation

#9 AMAZON (They are really expanding their platform using very simple decisions criteria –whatever they do increases selection, reduces cost, and enhances convenience of their consumers)
Without much fanfare, Amazon has more than tripled its revenues since 2002, to $13 billion. The key: giving customers choices, not just among products, but also between buying from Amazon directly or from outside vendors on the site. Amazon's new digital offerings -- in e-books, videos, and music -- present a fresh menu of options. The company's digital music store, launched in May, already comprises 3 million songs, all compatible with any device and any music software. Similarly, Unbox allows Amazon customers to rent or buy films and TV shows, and watch them on a variety of players. In an era of fighting formats and fears of piracy, that's uncommonly ecumenical.

#5 IDEO ( A fascinating mix of projects from 3rd world to Bank of America. In each case they base their designs on a deep knowledge of the target customers)
Nobody can accuse the Palo Alto -- based design firm of taking on easy clients in 2007. The CDC asked Ideo to help tackle childhood obesity; the Acumen Fund enlisted the shop to collaborate on delivering clean water in the developing world; and the Red Cross hired it to help encourage blood donations. "As social issues increasingly become business issues," says Ideo CEO Tim Brown, "this will be a critical new direction for design." Of course, there were awards too. The company's designs for the Eclipse 500 Very Light Jet cabin and cockpit instrument panel won IDEA Gold medals, as did its LCD monitor for Samsung. But it was Ideo's "Keep the Change" campaign for Bank of America that had perhaps the most impact. Based on research showing that boomer women with kids tend to round up their financial transactions, Ideo developed a service that rounds up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar, then transfers the monetary difference from the customer's checking account to her savings. In its first year, 2.5 million customers signed up.

#17 TARGET (Great marketers and an interesting internal process)
Target's strategy of rolling out capsule collections by well-known designers has kept the store's fashion merchandise leading the trends. In 2008, that strategy will take the form of vintage-inspired sports apparel and footwear with Converse, and a line of bedding, linens, and baby goods designed by StudioDwell. Target's appetite for hip design also extends to its marketing initiatives, such as 2007's "model-less" fashion show at New York's Grand Central Terminal (think holograms strutting down virtual runways) and a 2005 "vertical fashion show" at Rockefeller Center (left). Internally, the company encourages non-big-box thinking with a quarterly Big Idea contest. Winners don't just get a star on their performance reviews; they get a cash prize and a chance to see their ideas brought to life.

#19 TESCO (This is an incredible company that bases their strategies on a deep understanding of their customers through their Club that shoppers join to get bargains and agree to share their wants and needs)
Two or three times a week since November, a Fresh & Easy grocery has opened in California, Arizona, or Nevada. It's part of a plan to open 200 stores in two years envisioned by the chain's British parent, Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer. If Tesco's past is precedent, the U.S. grocery business ought to pay attention: Tesco has already quashed challenges from Wal-Mart in the U.K., and overseas expansion is its biggest growth generator. With more selection than a 7-Eleven but less than a standard supermarket, Fresh & Easy is geared toward the typical American shopper who buys only a few hundred products. The company plans to keep costs low by centralizing distribution, selling more store-brand items, and relying solely on automated checkout. By 2011, sales are projected to reach $4 billion, according to TNS Retail Forward.

#28 LG ELECTRONICS (It is amazing how quickly they grew in the U.S.)
Early on, LG, then a tiny Korean electronics manufacturer, was known as the "lucky group." It sure looks that way now: Half a century old, LG is one of the world's biggest producers of cell-phone handsets, air-conditioners, front-loading washing machines, DVD players, and flat-panel TVs. It has gone from near anonymity here just three years ago to $11.5 billion in North American sales in 2007. LG's killer app, slated for 2009 release, is rumored to be a mobile TV, dubbed MPH, that can pick up robust digital high-def broadcasts -- even from the backseat of a car going as fast as 100 miles per hour.

#29 BOEING (Example of a great product innovation based on their extensive work with composites though their military organization. These guys bet the company on each major new plane model!)
Not long ago, Boeing seemed destined for a future of eating Airbus's jetwash. But the 787 Dreamliner put the Seattle jumbo back in contention. Fifty percent of the Dreamliner's fuselage is built from lightweight composite materials, helping shave 20% off fuel consumption. The 787 is also 60% quieter than similar planes and emits cleaner exhaust. Inside, in a bid to reduce the headaches, dry mouth, and general misery of the long-haul hangover, higher cabin pressure and humidity better imitate life on the ground, and lighting adjusts with time-zone shifts. By January, 55 customers had ordered more than 800 Dreamliners, making it the fastest-selling commercial jet ever.

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