In the face of global climate change, social inequality, and the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s top companies are breaking the barriers on what it means to innovate. From rethinking how we vacation, to making medical breakthroughs and designing entirely automated cities, companies are thinking beyond the shelf lives of their own products and services and focusing on health, well-being, and a sustainable future.
Extraordinary innovation and social innovation earned top U.S. companies high ranks on the American Innovation Index™ (Aii), a research program that quantifies the innovativeness of nearly 200 companies from the customer’s point of view. Winners are selected based on the results of a national survey of 6,000 U.S. consumers who rated companies they do business with across 20 industries on key metrics, including innovation, customer loyalty, attractiveness, and social innovation.
Aii winners were recognized at the 4th annual Aii Conference hosted by Rockbridge Associates, Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business’ Responsible Business Coalition, and the Norwegian School of Economics.
Gina Woodall, president of Rockbridge Associates, shared findings from the 2021 study which included how customers’ perception of innovation and social innovation have continued to climb, and the pandemic’s impact on innovation varies markedly by industry sector. What’s more, she said “innovation is a powerful strategy to drive growth in a crowded sector where satisfaction is just not enough.” And, “understanding why customers believe you are or are not innovative and socially innovative compared to competitors can help prioritize your investments.”
Representatives from some of the winning companies participated in two panels on innovation and social innovation at the conference.
Buffy Swineheart, from Aflac, shared how the insurance company’s famous mascot played a key role in its philanthropic efforts. Highlighting the company’s social innovation efforts, Aflac’s duck was developed into a plush toy and app as a “social robot for children with cancer, enabling children to better express their feelings to their nurses, their caregivers, and their families,” said Swineheart, adding that Time magazine ranked the toy as one of the best inventions of 2018.
Brian Kiser, of Toyota, revealed the car company’s vision for a fully automated city outside of Tokyo, Japan to study autonomous vehicles, innovative street design, smart home technology, robotics, and new mobility products. “There will be real people living in the city full time. We will study what their needs are and how we can best address those needs with new technologies,” he said.
Few other occupations rely on the environment more than farming. Todd Florence, of John Deere, said the company recently introduced new GPS and auto-tracking technology for its tractors to precisely tread over the land once, which could save up to 700 gallons of fuel. Florence said, “In the end, it was a variety of perspectives from different stakeholders that informed how we prioritize our ESG goals.”
Meaningful innovation that incorporates a societal impact is part of what makes these companies stand apart from their competitors. The Aii proves that innovation without the intent to make a difference doesn’t build strong customer loyalty.
The conference was attended by more than 300 people interested in innovation.
Join us on November 15, 2022 for the 5th annual American Innovation Conference.
About the American Innovation Index™ and Social Innovation Index™
The American Innovation Awards are based on the American Innovation Index™ that rates and ranks nearly 200 U.S. companies based on perceptions of their customers in a national survey of over 6,000 consumers. The survey is administered by Rockbridge Associates, Inc., a market research firm specializing in services, technology and innovation.