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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Dave Pollard's Worlds Ten Greatest Innovators

Dave Pollard , the well known blogger on innovation and creativity has come out with a list of ten greatest innovating business entities. I completely agree with his list and reasoning behind their choice. Excerpts:

About time for some good news. Here are ten stand-out companies which, in the midst of a miserly, risk-averse horde of unimaginative, uninnovative companies in almost every sector of the economy, we should be celebrating. While corporatist giants believe the best way to deal with innovation is to shut it down by patenting everything and suing every upstart into oblivion, these ten companies are setting the example to show how business should be capitalizing on the market, not cornering it:

Most Innovative Media Company: Fast Company. Fast Company, The New Yorker, and Consumer Reports. The gang at fast company are not only great thinkers, they are constantly thinking ahead.

Most Innovative Manufacturer: WL Gore. The makers of Gore-Tex and a lot of stunningly inventive medical products you've probably never heard of. Fast Company's complete story on the company is available in pdf form here. Best takeaway: The six secrets of Gore's innovation success:
- The Power of Small Teams: Gore tries to keep its teams small (and caps even its manufacturing plants at 200 people). That way, everyone can get to know one another and work together with minimal rules, as though they were a task force tackling a crisis.
- No Ranks, No Titles, No Bosses: Associates (employees) select mentors, they don't have bosses. Associates decide for themselves what new commitments to take on. Committees evaluate an associate's contribution and decide on compensation. There are no standardized job descriptions or categories.
- Take the Long View: Gore is impatient with the status quo but patient about the time - often years, sometimes decades -- it takes to develop revolutionary products and bring them to market.
- Make Time for Face Time: There's no hierarchical chain of command; anyone in the company can talk to anyone else. Gore discourages memos and prefers in-person communication to email.
- Lead by Leading: Associates spend 10% of their time pursuing speculative new ideas. Anyone is free to launch a project and be a leader, so long as they have the passion and ideas to attract followers. Many of Gore's breakthroughs started with one person acting on his or her own initiative, and developed as colleagues helped in their spare time.
- Celebrate Failure: Don't stigmatize it. When a project doesn't work out and the team kills it, they celebrate with beer or champagne.

Most Innovative Software Company: Google: These guys never rest on their laurels. Eg .Google Desktop, Google Local, Google Keyhole, Google Alerts and more to come via Google Labs.

Most Innovative Hardware Company: Apple. With the iPod, Apple has reaffirmed its ability to create and reinvent whole hardware product categories.

Most Innovative Financial Organization: ING. The Dutch company that realized you don't need offices to run a bank has got the big banks, and now the big insurance companies, running scared. They offer better rates, minimal bureaucracy, by simply thinking smarter and constantly challenging all the established rules in the financial services industry.

Most Innovative Retailer: eBay. You know what these guys have done. Long after Wal-Mart is disgraced for having destroyed so many jobs and ruined so many companies in the race for the bottom, eBay will be remembered as the real innovators in retailing.

Best Blockbuster Idea Incubator: The New Yorker. This is the company that nurtures people like Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point) and James Surowiecki (The Wisdom of Crowds). Who would have thought you could make money by paying people to just think about great, world-changing ideas?

Most Innovative Business Advisor: Charles Handy would be the choice, though Clay Christensen, Peter Drucker, Gary Hamel and Michael Schrage are pretty good too.

Best Website for Creativity-Boosting: IdeaChampions. If giving things away free is its own reward, Mitch Ditkoff and the crew at IdeaChampions should be very wealthy. This little company's website is a goldmine of good ideas and tools that spark creativity and innovation.

Most Socially & Environmentally Responsible Innovator:Patagonia This is a company that developed a process that recycles the plastic in discarded soda bottles to make state-of-the-art clothing. And they donate 10% of profits to environmental causes that they're deeply involved in. In more ways than one, they make you feel warm all over. Dave also points out a few other companies, like Amazon, Sony, and 3M would have made the list, but unfortunately they're on the Boycott List. Ingenuity must be tempered by responsibility, says Dave. A good selection of innovators list.
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