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futurethink's Innovation Tracker Taps 2006'S Best Innovators; Survey Finds Corporate Climate is Key to Successful Innovation
[March 02, 2006]

futurethink's Innovation Tracker Taps 2006'S Best Innovators; Survey Finds Corporate Climate is Key to Successful Innovation

NEW YORK --(Business Wire)-- March 2, 2006 -- Companies that develop a climate that fosters risk-taking over the long term are significantly more effective at innovating to increase sales, according to a survey conducted by futurethink, a leading innovation product and consulting firm.

The survey results, futurethink's Innovation Tracker, identify the top 50 innovative companies to watch in 2006. The results were determined by an online series of qualitative and ranking questions and interviews completed by 100 senior level professionals in the innovation and allied fields of marketing and product design.

Respondents tapped computer giant Apple as the top innovator for 2006 followed by Google, Sony, 3M and Microsoft. JetBlue, Starbucks, BMW, Motorola and Target round out the top ten innovators for the year.

"Many firms have jumped on the bandwagon, touting how innovative they are," stated Lisa Bodell, chief executive officer of futurethink. "We developed this survey not to collect statistics and data but to take the pulse of the business community. How do they define innovation? Even more importantly, how do they define successful innovation? The results were rather surprising," Bodell stressed.

The Tracker identified one common business practice among this list of seemingly diverse firms. "These firms approach innovation as an overall business strategy with direct impact on financial stability and growth and have therefore created an environment that not only invites but stresses calculated risk taking as standard procedure," emphasized Bodell.

The clear message is that just focusing on the breakthrough ideas do not make a company innovative. Respondents agreed that the most effective innovators were companies that engendered a risk-taking climate and continually worked at it. "Top innovative companies respect the demands of a constantly changing marketplace. What product is selling today can be easily eclipsed by technology and competition come tomorrow," explained Bodell. "They understand that innovation is a long term business practice, only as effective as the environment that sustains it," she added.

True success at innovation has ripple effects beyond one industry and will spawn imitation as evidenced by the unanimous choice for top innovator of 2006, Apple Computer. According to one respondent, "They are on an 'innovation bullet train'. Innovation is integrated into everything they do." Apple has created an environment that expects and rewards risk taking. They depend on sustainable and rapid innovation but to lead in the marketplace. In the first half of 2005 alone, the company launched seven new or technically updated products. Their iPod and iTunes have redefined the music industry and had a ripple affect on other industries as well, with related products and accessories.

The Innovation Tracker asked executives to define innovation. While there was no widely accepted definition, there was however clear agreement about what innovation was not. "Too many firms incorrectly choose to narrowly define innovation as creativity, striving to find that breakthrough idea. Creativity in fact ranked only fifth in the list of definitions," stated Bodell. One industry professional summed up innovation as "taking an idea to the perfect and profitable execution - great ideas alone mean nothing."

Results from the survey identified that the free flow of ideas and creativity, while necessary, are not the driving force behind successful innovation. Respondents acknowledged that creativity was a natural component of effective innovation, but just one component. Results from the Tracker reinforced that in order to be creative you must have the right environment to do it. "Just tasking a team to 'be creative' won't get you to be innovative," stated Steve Brown, Director of Marketing for KitchenAid at Whirlpool Corporation. "It's having a corporate climate that gives people the space to experiment and take risks. Only then can you truly sustain it," he added.

Several key themes did emerge as attributes of innovation. The newness or the unique nature of a product or service was commonly cited as a means of differentiation, as was its ability to help consumers do something better than before. "Critical to a product's innovative status is its ability to simplify or make everyday life easier. In straightforward terms, what's so great about it, what's in it for me, the consumer?" explained futurethink's Bodell.

futurethink was founded in 2004 by 20-year corporate marketing and strategy veteran Lisa Bodell. Its clients include industry leaders such as Citigroup, MasterCard and Westin Hotels and Resorts. futurethink's diagnostic tools help companies identify weak aspects in four core innovation areas: ideas, strategy, process and climate. A wide array of products and services that make innovation both accessible and manageable are available directly on their Web site at

futurethink also stresses that while having a strong internal foundation for innovation is critical, effective innovation should not occur in a vacuum. To help, futurethink fieldtrips are a unique program that let clients think 'out of the box' by getting 'out of the office', with hands-on exploration of the most current, real-world innovations, both in major cities and in their own backyards. Fuel for these fieldtrips comes from futurethink's Snapshots, a sister website that is updated monthly with photographic tours of today's most innovative products and services.

Note to Media: Complete Innovation Tracker results, including respondent comments, are available at

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