In the face of global climate change, social inequality, and pandemic recovery, today’s top companies are breaking the barriers on what it means to innovate. From redesigning iconic fashion brands to reflect the diversity of consumers, to creating financial products that reflect customers’ social values, and rethinking the car buying process, 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 over 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 5th 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 2022 study which included how customers’ perception of innovation and social innovation have continued to climb since 2018. She said, “The pandemic was very challenging, and it forced a great deal of innovation across the brands we measure. Although we are still seeing an increase again this year, we do believe as things begin to settle down, we’ll start to see innovation level off. Social innovation tells a similar story. For firms that are willing to rely on innovation as a means of competing, this will provide an opportunity for them to differentiate themselves.”
At this year’s conference, representatives from some of the winning companies participated in three panels on innovation, the Voice of the Customer in meeting ESG goals, and social innovation at service organizations.
Kim Majerus, from Amazon Web Services, revealed the multinational technology company’s number one principle is customer obsession. They start with their customer and think about their challenge, opportunity, and what they are trying to solve – which is called their “working backwards process”. Highlighting the company’s innovation efforts, in the past year AWS has rolled out 3,084 services and features based on the feedback they were receiving from their customers, as well as helping them innovate within their own markets.
Ellis Jones, of Goodyear, shared how the tire company has 4 pillars for sustainability: sustainable sourcing, responsible operations, advanced mobility, and inspiring culture. Within these four pillars, they have set their sights on three very important goals – eliminating serious injuries within the manufacturing process, developing 100% sustainable material tires by 2030, and a climate ambition to reach net-zero value chain greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As mobility advances, Jones sheds light on the company’s future business strategy: “As our business model changes, how do we help different populations, different communities move toward this new mobility space and how is it going to impact our customers, communities, and associates?”
Katherine Hunter, of JP Morgan, conveyed how when thinking about environmental and social challenges they have two big priorities – advance inclusive growth and support the transition to a low carbon economy. Their CSR division has several tools to make this happen, mainly using an integrated approach that includes policy, research, and employee engagement. For a systemic change, the company must rethink how they do business and ensure CSR is within all of their lines of business, products, and services to ensure an overall impact. As an example, Hunter said “in 2020 the firm announced a $30 billion racial equity commitment to help close the racial wealth gap, which comes from all lines our business.”
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 150 people interested in innovation.
Join us on November 14, 2023 for the 6th 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.