To the Point

Brand Recognition

There’s a lot the most innovative companies can teach us.

What do Taco Bell, Spotify, GE, Buzzfeed, and Bristol-Myers Squibb have in common? Fast Company just named them to its annual Most Innovative Companies list. The top-50 list contains several brands you’d expect — like Apple, Facebook, and Amazon — and many you probably wouldn’t recognize. Each offers lessons in innovation, regardless of your organizational affiliation.

It seems to me that organizations too often get stuck in a mentality that believes innovation can only come from certain groups — the ones already on the bleeding edge, or with plenty of cash to burn. But the most innovative ideas often can come from unlikely places, where the obstacles seem so large or the culture so entrenched that change seems impossible. And cash is not always the most important ingredient in making an innovative idea work.

What can we in the meetings industry learn from the list?

Manage change. Some newer companies thrive on continual evolution of their products, but constant change can wreak havoc on an organization if it’s not managed properly. A culture that supports change and curiosity is key. Fast Company gave Facebook props for not letting its now-huge size affect the company’s startup mentality. 

 Older organizations can be just as innovative as startups. Some companies were singled out for totally overhauling their legacy brands, propelling them into cutting-edge pursuits. Founded in 1892, GE (formerly known as General Electric) is not only the nation’s largest industrial company, it’s now setting its sights on software and technology, and is leading the charge on the industrial Internet of Things.

It’s often necessary to make tough choices. As CVS Health strives to become a one-stop shop for healthy living, the pharmacy chain has added new services such as the MinuteClinic, new apps to help customers manage their health, and healthier food choices. But the retailer also made the difficult decision to ban tobacco — a very profitable product line — to align with its healthy branding.

Rethink the way things are done. The sheer number of companies on the list that focus on mobile services is significant. Sure, there’s Uber, Airbnb, and Snapchat. But companies with brand-new services are changing the way we do all kinds of business. Robinhood (an app for commission-free stock trading), Hudl (a platform where athletes and coaches can quickly upload videos of game play), and Shyp (an on-demand mobile shipping service) all made the list.

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.