Archive for category Best Companies
1. You can learn something useful from anyone.
Whenever we find ourselves ignoring someone because we’ve already determined that they aren’t “smart” enough to say something meaningful, we’ve made a big mistake. Besides being presumptuous and arrogant, this mindset blocks out every useful thing the other person might pass along. Instead of just listening and mining the conversation for nuggets of wisdom, we allow our pre-existing bias to brand everything as “not smart enough for me.” Incredibly bad idea. I’ve yet to meet someone who couldn’t teach me something.
2. If quality slips, it really doesn’t matter how good your ideas were.
This one I learned from a couple of my uncles who worked as quality control specialists on assembly lines. The most ingenious design plans, no matter how many brains contributed to them, can fatally falter in the execution phase if quality slips. This is equally true for intangible plans. Imparting greatness requires a continuum of effort and attention, not just an initial brain-fueled flurry to get exemplary ideas on paper.
A COUPLE of years after it launched its website in 1995, Amazon was the subject of an unflattering report entitled “Amazon.Toast”. The pundit who penned it predicted that the fledgling online bookseller would soon be crushed by Barnes & Noble (B&N), a book-retailing behemoth which had just launched its own site.
Far from being crushed, Amazon is doing the crushing. Borders, a once-mighty book chain, was flattened this year. B&N looks like a frightened capybara running from a fierce Brazilian she-warrior. Amazon is now one of the web’s most successful e-tailers. Even Apple is feeling the heat.
On September 28th Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s boss, unveiled a tablet computer called the Kindle Fire. It will compete with gadgets such as B&N’s Nook Color tablet and Apple’s iPad. The new Amazon tablet, which has a somewhat smaller screen than the iPad and only offers Wi-Fi connectivity, is likely to be just the first salvo in a titanic battle.
In media, for example, people can wake up every morning and use the search engine to construct a newspaper different from the day before. In real estate, people may buy houses without ever setting foot in a real estate office. How do existing businesses survive the upheaval? How are newcomers profiting from these profound changes? This BusinessWeek slide show explains Jarvis’ ideas about how the lessons of Google could be applied in 18 different fields.
Tireless curiosity beats a high IQ every time, and learning to ask the right questions is crucial, according to a pair of new books.
By Anne Fisher, contributor
FORTUNE — Where exactly do good ideas come from?
The word “idea” comes from the Greek idein, which means “to see.” That’s no coincidence.
As co-authors Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer (with journalist William Bole) point out in their book, The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make Them Happen, great business ideas don’t occur as bolts out of the blue.
Instead, they’re usually just lying around in plain sight somewhere, waiting for someone to notice them — like, for instance, the little scrap of lightweight material Henry Ford picked up off the ground at a racetrack in Palm Beach in 1905. A bit of debris from the wreck of a French car, “it was very light and very strong. I asked what it was made of,” Ford later recalled. “Nobody knew.”
The stuff turned out to be a steel alloy containing vanadium, which was not manufactured in the U.S. at the time. Ford put his best R&D team on it and, three years later, his company rolled out a more durable, lightweight line of cars that gave Ford (F) a decisive advantage in the crowded, chaotic auto market.
The Idea Hunter draws on dozens of other examples from iconic U.S. companies like Disney (DIS), Google (GOOG), Wal-Mart (WMT), and American Express (AXP) to make the point — an encouraging one for those of us who are no geniuses — that “curiosity…can more than make up for a lack of brilliance.” (As Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”)
In fact, the authors contend, “the cleverest people [in an organization] have a tendency to overestimate their brain power,” which leads them to “stick to their success formula and…not go hunting for better ideas. In other words, they’re just not interested enough.”
Barry Jaruzelski and Cesare R. Mainardi (Forbes),
Spending the most on innovation is not how they do it.
You can spend all you want on innovation, but you can’t guarantee success. In fact, the most innovative companies are not necessarily the biggest spenders, according to Booz & Company’s recent global innovation study. What matters instead? The ability to build the right innovation capabilities to connect with the overall business strategy and other critical capabilities.
In conducting our latest Global Innovation 1000 study, we surveyed more than 450 innovation executives (senior managers and R&D professionals) at more than 400 different companies around the globe. We asked them to identify the companies they thought were the most innovative.
The results were striking: Seven of the top 10 innovators were not among the top 10 spenders on innovation. Many of those identified by their peers as top innovators actually spent well below their industry averages on R&D, as a percentage of sales. And, most important, the top 10 innovators turned in better financial performances than the top 10 spenders.