Fast Company magazine released the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2016 and I have a few complaints about the list.
Firstly, we’re not even two months into 2016 so does the cement on this list mean no other company can do anything innovative that’s worth mentioning the rest of the year? Of course, not. The list is better titled ‘A List Of Innovative Companies In 2015.’
Secondly, where’s the criteria that determines which company ranks where on the Top 10 list? Is it number of innovations? Where’s the definition of innovation? I’m not so sure this is a list of innovative companies as it is a list of companies that make noise in public.
That’s not innovation.
What does innovation really mean, anyway?
Innovation is a new idea, or more-effective device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more-effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term “innovation” can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that “breaks into” the market or society.
Fair enough, but that definition is sufficiently broad and general that almost any company that makes a change in a product, service, or procedure could rightly be called innovative.
Apple certainly fills the bill for a company that innovates continually, as evidenced by an ongoing hardware and software development process. Every year we get new products from Apple which do more, do more better, and advance the state of the art. But that’s basic innovation which mirrors that of many other companies, whereas Apple has disrupted entire markets with innovative new products.
In economics, management science, and other fields of practice and analysis, innovation is generally considered to be the result of a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that they have an impact on society.
That last portion caught my eye because Apple has a long and storied history of disrupting various business and product markets with a particular type of disruptive innovation. Go down the list.
The original Apple was highly disruptive to the nascent PC market back in the day. Likewise, so was the Mac. Then, following the Mac through the Dark Ages, Apple unleashed a string of market changing products starting with the Apple Store experience, iPod, iTunes Music Store, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, App Stores, Apple Watch.
Each of those products disrupted an industry. Few companies reach more than $200-billion in annual revenues and have such a small product line. That’s Apple. Intensely focused, highly driven.
Where does Apple fall on Fast Company’s Top 10 list? At #7, just ahead of the new Google, Alphabet, but behind Amazon. Apparently, being a one-trick pony can get you a seat at the Top 10 table. Ditto for a company that cannot figure out how to make a profit (AMZN I’m looking at you).
#1? BuzzFeed. Digital pablum has come of age and gone mainstream. #2? Facebook. User generated digital pablum has become a worldwide infestation. #3? CVS Health. Mostly because they swallowed up other drug store chains to grow, and yet they still can’t run Apple Pay. I’ll leave you to rummage through the rest of the list– Uber, Netflix, Black Lives Matter, and my favorite forehead slapper, Taco Bell at #10.
From what I can see, innovation just doesn’t mean what it used to mean.