To innovate is to grow, and businesses that lead in innovation certainly are among the most prestigious firms in the world today. Knowing how — and why — to innovate in this fast-moving business environment is key to not only survival, but to prosperity and growth. In short, the companies that excel in innovation are the companies that are the leaders in today’s business world.
Simply put, business innovation is when new products, services, processes or ideas are introduced at a company. These can be improvements on existing products and/or services (making things faster, smaller or cheaper, for example), solving a problem that plagues its customers or introducing an entirely new product or service. The goal of business innovation is to grow wealth to the company, its shareholders and stakeholders. In short, it increases revenue for the company.
Business innovation falls into one of the following four categories.
Virtually every successful large company today is an innovator; this is almost mandatory in order to survive in this fast-changing world. Five of the most innovative companies include the following:
Amazon, which started life as an online book seller, has come the closest to global domination of any company in existence today. Entire tomes have been written about Amazon’s growth and innovations, and many of them have changed the way the world shops. These include its Prime service (free two-day delivery, along with streaming audio and video content, personal photo storage, etc.); its Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies and government services; its warehouse automation; and its self-branded delivery service, just to name a few.
Tesla designs, manufactures and sells its branded models of fully electric vehicles. In addition, it provides service centers along with charging stations for its vehicles. Its success in the electric vehicle (EV) market is due to its focused innovation; the technology behind the scenes (fast-charging batteries, performance) are great examples of the company’s innovative process.
ServiceNow, a California-based cloud computing platform, was ranked No. 1 on Forbes’ “The World’s Most Innovative Companies” list in 2018. This ranking was due to its proactive use of analytics that produce insights to its users. It also created new customer service management tools that incorporate artificial intelligence( AI), machine learning and user-centered design for customer interactions. As of 2021, ServiceNow ranks at No. 15 in Fortune’s “Best Work Places In Technology” (Large).
Workday, like so many other business innovators, is a cloud-based software service. Its focus is financial management and human capital, and it was founded in 2005. Similar to ServiceNow, Workday is implementing machine learning into its products and services. In addition, it is using blockchain technology to digitize its credentials. Workday has charted at an impressive No. 2 on Forbes’ World’s Most Innovative Companies list.
Netflix started life as a “delivered by mail” DVD rental service and has morphed into one of the leading streaming platforms today. Initially, by making it simple and convenient for consumers to rent movies, it put its competitors — namely Blockbuster — in checkmate. But it didn’t stop there. It has become a major online platform for movies, with a huge base of monthly subscribers, and it has since added popular original content to its platform, such as “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” In less visible areas, Netflix has also improved technically in its streaming, which enables viewers to scroll faster on mobile devices and improves the quality of content when internet quality is sketchy.
“Innovate or die” should be the mantra of the business leaders of every company today. Failure to do so will lead to a decline and fall of the company, a fate that has killed top-tier companies. Business textbooks are filled with examples of companies that failed to innovate; students of business can learn from the missteps of Radio Shack, Borders Books, Blockbuster, Toys R Us and Tower Records, among many, many others. Simply knowing the history of these companies and what bad decisions they made should be enough to understand that business innovation is vital. It doesn’t guarantee success, but success is seemingly impossible without it.
Chris Capelle is a technology expert, writer and instructor. For over 25 years, he has worked in the publishing, advertising and consumer products industries.
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