Technological Innovation – Out With the Old, In With the New?

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Innovation

FORBES VS. BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP

There is an argument going on between BCG (Boston Consulting Group) and Forbes.  It might get ugly.  Well, not really, but it seems they are in disagreement about an important issue… what company is the most innovative company in the whole wide world?  According to BCG, Apple is STILL the most innovative company in the world.  They ranked Apple #1 on the list for the 8th year running.  Forbes on the other hand, not so much.  On Forbes’ list, Salesforce.com is #1, and Apple ranks far down the ladder at #79.  Forbes claims that their ranking of innovative companies is superior because they look beyond popularity and more at “how investors pick out firms that they think are innovative now and will be in the future.”  But perhaps investor Carl Icahn would agree more with BCG.  In an open letter to Apple written last week he stated “from our perspective, Apple is the world’s greatest consumer product innovator and has one of the strongest and most respected brand names in history.”

And while it looks like the seat for the top innovative company is up for debate, let’s take a step by and ask why?  Why is it debated and how could two prestigious business research companies have come up with two utterly different lists with utterly different rankings?  And more so, let’s discuss the thought that in current times, Apple has failed to live up to its innovative status, and why.

DEFINING INNOVATION

I guess the first thing to do when discussing innovation is to define the term itself.  According to Webster Dictionary, innovation is defined as: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods. So it is pretty easy for a company to qualify as innovative.  They just have to fit this description in one way or another, or in all three ways.  But that is where things get interesting at the same time.  Because Apple hasn’t come up with new ideas, devices, or methods in while.  But Boston Consulting Group is still calling them the #1 innovative company in the world.  In 2013.

HAS APPLE LOST ITS INNOVATIVE STREAK?

It is true that Apple did come up with new, brilliant devices that changed the everyday consumer and the marketplace.  In this same way Apple came up with new ideas that had yet to be explored (an App store for example).  And furthermore, Apple changed the methodology behind consumer marketing, business, and more.  All these things are true and in this way, Apple did meet the definition of innovation.  But notice how all these things are in the PAST tense.  The latest and greatest buzz from Apple surrounds existing devices and ideas, so many would argue they are merely upgrades, not innovations.

Apple’s critics would argue that the company has truly lost its innovation.  With the latest iPhone releases written off as an ultimate failure and the new iPad releases already gaining lacklustre reviews, people seem to have already given up on Apple.  If you type in “Apple innovation” into Google you encounter several articles discussing Apple’s predicament and assumed lack or loss of innovation.  Some hold out hope though.  The vice president of research at Gartner, Van Baker, states “does Apple need to innovate?  Yes they absolutely do.  Do they need to bring out a new category of products that nobody knew they needed until Apple invented it?  Yes, but they’re still within a reasonable amount of time.”

CAN BIG ORGANIZATIONS STILL INNOVATE?

Salesforce.com on the other hand is not only embracing, but owning, cloud computing in its own right.  With an ever expanding platform, strategic partnerships and acquisitions, and more and more companies relying on the cloud giant for success, Salesforce is a clear innovator.  But wasn’t that Apple in its “prime.”  Salesforce is growing as the ball keeps rolling, adding seemingly effortlessly to their cloud empire.  But that was Apple with the iPod, the iPhone and then the iPad.  Does there come a point where a company grows too big and perhaps too corporate to innovate?  After all look at some other big tech giants like Google or even Oracle.  When is the last time they came up with some earth shattering new idea, device, or method?  Do you remember?

It seems in this day and age, the underdog might just win.  We predict that soon it won’t be tech giants like Apple or even Salesforce.com topping the Innovative Companies lists.  It will be the little guy.  Start-ups are popping up all the time with new ideas and a new passion for changing the way consumers think and buy and changing social behaviors and patterns as well.  Groupon started this way.  So did Uber.  And Hubspot.  And Zipcar.  And Instagram.

THE MAGIC INNOVATION POTION

What’s the challenge?  To keep innovating.  The challenge for any company these days is to not only offer a unique and innovative product, service or business approach, but to continue to do so.  The key for successful businesses today is to continue to reinvent themselves, and the wheel, to constantly give customers a taste of something they never knew they needed or wanted, until you feed it to them.  On a spoon.  Scratch that.  A mini computer spoon that interacts with your tastebuds and changes the taste of what you are consuming accordingly.  That’s better.

By the way, we are changing the way people manage their data.

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