A lot has been said about innovation and creativity that both terms are now confused even to the World’s most super search engine. A Google search of “top three innovative companies in the world” and “top three creative companies in the world” brings results that are almost an exact match, implying lack of clarity in the differences between the two terms.
Salesforce is ranked #1 on Forbes list of The World’s Most Innovative Companies. The ranking is based on The Innovation Premium – which Forbes defines as “the measure of how much investors have bid up the stock price of a company above the value of its existing business based on expectations of future innovative results (new products, services and markets).” The question is which ‘new’ products or services has Sales force created? Fastcompany.com ranks Google on top, and there is no mention of Sales force. So, what is the cause of differences in the top two lists of most innovative companies? Why are the ranking methodologies different? Why are some of the top publications confusing the two terms? Who is correct?
Forbes: Is Sales force really the most innovative or creative company?
When a company brings on the market a new product, service or idea that never existed before, it is said to be creative. Indeed, the original ideas and theories about how the world and heavens we see came into being, confirm this. The story of creation is a big debate and always will be. Regardless of your views, it is not a story or debate about innovation. It is about origins of new thinking, new life, and new existence – the bringing into reality for the first time. That is what creation is all about. Whether the world came as a result of creation (theism) or evolution (atheism) makes a case that to create is to make new things that never existed before.
All great products and services start as ideas. Some people are good at just generating great new ideas and stop there. Many lack the resources to turn their ideas into a real product or service. If you can find some of these ideas and make a new product out of them that never existed before – you are creative. For this reason, creativity requires heavy investment in Research and Development (R&D) and that is what makes some countries like USA global superpowers.
Innovation on the other hand is improving an existing creation (idea or product) to make it better by improving on its performance and functionality to solve an existing market need. The key word here is improving.
Take the case of a laptop or mobile phone battery in use today. A battery is a product that already exists (someone already created it). However, the current battery has challenges of running out within a short time, utmost within 10 days, depending on usage. There is a huge market need for a battery that can run for twenty or fifty days without recharging.
The case of the Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that vanished makes a case for the need of a more robust and high-tech batteries that can last for more than 100 days. Without pings from the Airline’s black boxes (having run out of battery power), it is difficult to locate the Airline’s whereabouts. That is a huge market need. If you can come up with a solution that extends the lifespan of the Airline black box battery from 25 days to say 35 days. You are being an innovator – you have improved the performance of an existing product to meet the current market need, but just!
However, if your new solution extends the lifespan of the black box battery to say 50 days, you may well be a creator. You have made a solution that has dwarfed the earlier creation. In this case, you have gone far beyond the existing idea to come up with something very special.
Clearly, there are few creations. Most of the new products and services are innovations – mere improvements to existing ideas, products and services.
So why are the lists of ‘top creative companies’ and ‘top innovative companies’ not clearly distinguished on the Google search? Why are innovative companies being compared with creative companies as if the two are the same?
Take the case of Google’s Autonomous Vehicle, Google Glass and Google Now. These are winning inventions. Nothing like any of these has ever existed. On the other hand, Salesforce has made cloud computing better and on-line sales management easier. But cloud computing and client list management (list mailchimp.com) is something that has been around for long. Salesforce has only invested in aggressive marketing and making their services user friendly. That is innovative.
However, it does not give Salesforce the privilege to be ranked alongside the likes ofGoogle – a company which is both innovative and creative. Google is innovative in such a way that their ecosystem of merging technologies is awesome. With a single login, you can access everything from email to mobile apps, and do a lot more in a very wonderful way. They are conquering the Internet. And creative, they are bringing new things like Google glass that were never heard of, to reality.
In my next part II, we explore the concept of innovation mix and what makes some companies like Google great innovators while others not. It has everything to do with providing a good ‘innovative’ environment that promotes obtaining ideas from both employees and external stakeholders (especially clients) who use the company’s services on a daily basis. I will also explain the 4-stages value creation model.