Learning from the Most Innovative Companies

One of the most universal truths of recent years is that “innovation excites, attracts, and profits”. I say recent years only because the frequency of innovation appears to have sped up in the past few decades. Innovation as a general process of society is timeless; innovation of every variety has been the greatest driving force behind human progress. New ideas spur new experiments, new successes and failures, and this is how we have moved from hunters and gatherers living in caves to a hyperconnected and super-informed global society of self-aware creative individuals that are exploring the stars.

However, innovation used to take place on a much slower scale, tens of thousands of years for some of the biggest and most sizeable steps forward (agriculture, written language, etc.). As we look back through anthropology and history, we give a great deal of much-deserved import to innovative moments in time that marked major shifts in human society. However, as we approach the present, these leaps forward in intellectual, social, cultural, and technological prowess have come faster and more unexpectedly. Problems that used to take multiple generations to properly identify and solve are being spotted and fixed within decades, or even months. Our global society has inspired an ideal of instant (or at least rapid) gratification, so when a problem is observed, there is no shortage of people eager to throw their expertise into the ring and likely make a tidy profit along the way.

Innovation has a second level as well, that is more motivational than reactionary. When we think of the problem solution paradigm, that is a reactionary form of innovation in response to an identified issue. There is also an experimental or purely solution-seeking form of innovation that encourages experiments and wild ideas. This form of innovation is based on the idea that everything can be improved somehow, even if we haven’t recognized or demanded the need for such advancement.

Basically, we have encouraged the last two generations to aspire to creativity, rather than the traditional norms of medicine, law, and finance for high capital gains. Getting involved in business is no longer strictly guided by the dream of wealth; many aspiring business professionals want to put their ambitious, risky, creative personalities on display and enact real change in global industries. However, there are so many of these well-educated, ambitious, tech-savvy, creative free-thinkers that the ranks of thousands of companies are filled with them, even if those companies don’t recognize the potential for creativity that they hold in their personnel files.

The smartest and most successful companies in recent years have not only embraced this new generation of business professionals, but have given them carte blanche access to the pursuit of new projects and ideas that could make the company (and the world) a better place. These innovation engines promote change and dynamism in everything they do, in every ad they run, and in every meeting they hold; they represent the new generation of global business that respects the inherent unpredictability of the modern world. Things are changing faster than ever, and instead of being pulled along or pushed to the side, the following ten companies explored in this book are leading the charge in their industries (or in new fields altogether).

These companies are attracting the right talent, paying attention to the most important trends, creating completely unique products and services, and trusting their employees to consistently work towards the company goals, no matter what form that work takes. Creating an innovation engine from the ground-up is actually far easier than evolving into one from an existing workforce; however, it is not impossible. My book INNOVATION ENGINES is designed as a guide not only for new companies that want to structure their working model in an innovative way, but also for existing companies that want to shift their focus away from their traditional framework and creative hierarchy. Some of these example companies have been innovation engines from day one, while others have evolved over time, but all of them can teach us something valuable about the manifestation of creativity in the modern market.

You may not think that your industry has much room for innovation, or perhaps your small business doesn’t have enough clout or capital to change an entire market, but remember that everything starts somewhere, and nothing worth doing is easy.

Some of these lessons may apply to your company, while others may not, but every company, individual, and business leader can learn something valuable from these ten innovation engines.