What makes a company innovative?

3M campus in Maplewood, Minn., January 26, 2012.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Many companies strive to innovate, but few succeed. Thomson Reuters recently released its Top 100 Global Innovators for 2013, and heavy hitters like Apple, Minnesota-based 3M and Ford made the list. There are also lesser-known companies like France's transportation equipment company Safran and Japan's Asahi Glass.

On The Daily Circuit, we discuss what makes a company truly innovative.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor of business administration, chair at Harvard Business School and director of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, says innovative companies create jobs to foster their goals:

Consider 3M's move to become one of the first companies to tell professionals that they could spend 15 percent of their time on projects of their own choosing. Now many high-tech companies know that they can't get the best talent without providing this kind of flexibility. And some of those self-selected, self-organized projects might even result in a blockbuster product or line of business. For 3M, it was the Post-it note.

Lisa Bodell, founder and CEO of futurethink, an innovation research and training firm, said successful companies ask disruptive questions:

So what do disruptive questions look and sound like? They usually begin with "how," "which," "why" or "if" and are specific without limiting imagination. They focus on generating solutions rather than begging long-winded explanations and place blame, as often-asked 'close-ended' questions always do. They awaken the mind rather than put it to sleep. To illustrate, a provocative version of "Who has an idea for improving our product/service?" would be "If we hosted a forum called 'How Our Products & Services Suck,' what topics would be on the main stage?" An equally effective version is "Which two things could our competitors do to render our product/services irrelevant?"


Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation (Harvard Business Review)

The 10 Things Innovative Companies Do To Stay On Top (Business Insider)

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.