The American Innovation Index

Aii™ Conference Featured U.S.’s Most Innovative Companies

“It’s one thing to say your company is innovative. It’s another for your customers to say your company is consistently able to create change,” according to Fordham Professor Lerzan Aksoy, emcee of the inaugural American Innovation Conference. The conference featured a panel representing America’s most innovative companies, including Amazon, Southwest Airlines, John Deere and Goodyear, and gave awards to a roster of innovation winners that also included Ford, Aflac, Toyota, and Trader Joes.

From left to right: Gina Woodall, Rockbridge Associates | Justin Matthews, Trader Joes | Bobby Kendall, Trader Joes | Rhonda Belluso, Ford | Ellis Jones, Goodyear | Marc Howze, John Deere | Paul Misener, Amazon | Lerzan Aksoy, Fordham University | Klaus Hoehn, John Deere | Heather Figallo, Southwest | Robin Kelly, Whole Foods | Eric Kirsch, Aflac | Micholl Azenon, Toyota

The conference took place October 16 in New York City, and was hosted by the Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University, in partnership with Rockbridge Associates and the Norwegian School of Economics. The conference focused on what it means from a customer point of view to be “innovative” in delivering products and services, and “socially innovative” in benefiting society and the environment.

Attendees heard from Malcolm Frank, CSO, CMO at Cognizant, who spoke about the advance of machines and its impact on both companies and individual workers. “Artificial intelligence is the great story of our time,” he pronounced. He also predicted that machines and people will work together in the future. “Seventy-five percent of [white-collar] jobs will be enhanced by AI,” he said.

Later in the conference, companies rated highly on the recently-released American Innovation Index™ were celebrated. And panelists from these organizations spoke about how they approach and view innovation.

Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation shared that Amazon employees are judged on their ability to disconfirm their beliefs. “The goal is to try and make your idea fail. If an experiment can’t fail, it’s not an experiment at all,” he stated.

Two top companies viewed as innovative by its customers were John Deere and Goodyear. Both these companies cited a commitment to sustainability as a central feature of innovation. Mark Howze, vice president and chief administrative officer at John Deere noted that the ability to make land more sustainable and productive for his customers are the most critical aspects of business at John Deere. “We try to stay close to customers to help create innovations that will make them more productive, and ultimately help society.”

Gina Woodall, president of Rockbridge Associates, Inc., talked about the numbers and methods behind the American Innovation Index. According to Gina, “Innovation matters because the most innovative companies also end up having the most loyal customers. If the company is innovative in their business and viewed as socially innovative, it is considered transformative rather than disruptive and becomes a leader.”

The conference was attended by 250 people interested in innovation, including business executives, students, faculty and NGOs. The content centered on the American Innovation Index, a national survey that rated and ranked 163 U.S. companies based on perceptions of their customers in a national survey of over 7,000 consumers. The survey is administered by Rockbridge Associates, Inc., a market research firm specializing in services, technology and innovation, and is co-sponsored by the Gabelli School of Business and Norwegian School of Economics.