A New Way Of Looking At The World's Most Innovative Companies

Jan 13 2014, 9:08am CST | by

A New Way Of Looking At The World's Most Innovative Companies

Over the past six months I’ve been involved in creating a new innovation benchmarking index. I’m really happy to say it has launched today. You can see the inaugural Elastic Innovation Index here. It covers all the attributes of digital transformation.

Still, the term “Elastic Innovation” needs a word of explanation. The idea is to indicate a range of competencies that let companies respond quickly to new opportunities and threats. It is a reference to elasticity in the economic sense of being able to respond to fluctuations in demand, but with a bit extra – being able to create and manage demand at scale, quickly. Our contention is that any company with these elasticity skills is going to be a winner, so we measure those characteristics. It also means they have the kind of fluidity that I covered here.

My partner in the index is strategy company Bluefin Solutions and I have had some great interaction with, and searching questions from, Lance Mercereau there, along with Ayisha Ali who has helped keep the process on track. Bluefin covered some of the cost of my involvement.

The debate around innovation and metrics, however, has generally overlooked the broad competencies of an enterprise in favor of things like the new gadget or the new product.

In fact when we talk about innovation we’re generally referring to one of two things. The first is the output – that shiny new object, that iPad or Nexus 7, or Mercedes Benz, that engaging new service or that handy new patent that gives you decent protection from competition.

The second is the specific innovation process. When we talk about that we get a little tongue-tied over creativity issues and we get seriously confounded by the innovation process: how to generate new ideas, evaluate them, move them through some kind of funnel and hit a market with expert timing.

There is a third way and that is to look at the overall competencies in an enterprise and the power to brig those competencies together with powerful new processes like platforms and ecosystems.

When you see innovation top 100 lists or top 50s they tend to be built around our understanding of the first of these three – the output.

It is very difficult to manage your business by looking at someone else’s outputs. You really need to be thinking about competencies and process. The Elastic Innovation Index has been built more from these two features.

In all we used five categories of competency and process to benchmark companies.

1. Social – the communications and marketing skills, and associated data, that help companies to build more powerful relationships with customers;

2. Platform and data – the combination of software, hardware, data and analytics that allows companies to develop and manage an ecosystem of customers, partners, or developers;

3. Leadership – the new approach to partnerships, creativity and peer-based leadership that allows the best  companies to make dramatic moves  into new markets;

4. Strategy – the collection of  innovation methods and intent that  marks companies out as pioneers;

5. Business process – the ability and willingness to adapt a company’s core  processes by externalizing many key skills requirements, or by sharing IP with partners and creating new services quickly.

In all we used 35 criteria to judge competency and process across these five pillars. I’ll come back with more in a later post but for now these are the winners, followed by a note on the overall number 1 company in the elastic innovation index Nike. Here are the top 20. You can find the top 50 here


Nike was an early adopter of a platform approach to its business, incorporating the iPod into Nike + back in the early 2000s and has now reinvigorated that with Fuel band. Nike is also blazing  a trail in 3D printing, with its prototyping of athletic shoe variants like the Le Bron X. More recently it began incorporating 3D printing into its finished products, with deeper levels of customization, particularly for elite athletes. As wearable computing becomes more ubiquitous, Nike is well placed to reap the benefits of experience.


Fuelband allows Nike to dive deeper into data and to provide feedback to customers on their exercise regimes, taking the company across the chasm from product to service. It is also teaming with developers who will be increasingly able to develop for the Nike + Platform, taking Nike from apparel into the realm of high tech, platform, data analytics and constant responsiveness and change.

For all these reasons but also because the Nike executive team act like founders, because they know social, and because they carefully cultivate their intellectual property, they outscored every other company across the total 35 categories and became the benchmark company in the list. Nike is the one to follow, unless you really feel competitive in which case Nike is the one to beat.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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