“Innovation stimulates our imagination of what is possible and what we want our world to be,” reflected Donna Rapaccioli, dean of the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University, as she kicked off the third annual American Innovation Conference (AIC). Hosted virtually for the first time, the AIC celebrates customer-focused innovation and leaves participants with fresh ideas to integrate into their workplace.
The conference featured speakers representing America’s most innovative companies, including Adobe, General Motors, Goodyear, IKEA, JetBlue, John Deere, Sherwin-Williams, Stanley Black & Decker, Toyota, and Trader Joes.
The conference took place on November 16th 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.
Sheri Feinzig, partner at IBM’s global business services talent and transformation practice, anchored the conference with a keynote speech about diversity. She explained diversity “is more than bringing together people with different experiences; the exposure to diversity changes the way we think. When we encounter people we expect to be different, we are better at solving problems.” Feinzig left her audience with tangible ideas for improving workplace diversity at every stage of the talent life cycle to increase innovation. “Diversity is hard,” she acknowledged. “It’s an uncomfortable truth that humans like to be around people who look and think like us. But it doesn’t evoke that deep thinking that is needed for innovation.”
“All it takes to innovate is for one person to identify an opportunity and make it happen.”
Lerzan Aksoy, Fordham University
As diversity drives innovation, innovation drives organizational success. A panel comprised of an executive from John Deere, one of the 20 highest-rank companies on the American Innovation Index and other subject matter experts from exemplar companies delved into the role that innovativeness plays in talent recruitment, work culture, and employee engagement. Carol Costello’s position as research and design brand strategist at Spotify is tied to Spotify’s engineering teams, and not its marketing unit. Costello pointed out that the arrangement itself is innovative, allowing her to focus on the company’s core functions, while other areas handle external optics.
A second panel focused on the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the last year. Stephen Revnew, SVP of innovation at Sherwin-Williams, shared how the pandemic pushed his organization to create new options for customers to order color samples online before making a purchase.
Selwyn Crittendon, business development and innovation manager at IKEA U.S., explained steps the company took to establish a logistical framework to avoid sending returned items to the landfill.
Gina Woodall, president of Rockbridge Associates, provided the latest findings from the American Innovation Index™ Study as well. In 2020, both customer innovation and social innovation jumped five percentage points compared to a year ago. According to Gina, “it’s been a challenging year for companies, but they adapted their business models to succeed. Times of crisis can spur innovation and move companies forward.”
The conference was attended by more than 500 people interested in innovation, the largest audience on record.
Join us on November 16, 2021 for the 4th 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 rated and ranked nearly 200 U.S. companies based on perceptions of their customers in a national survey of over 5,000 consumers. The survey is administered by Rockbridge Associates, Inc., a market research firm specializing in services, technology and innovation, and is co-sponsored by Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business and Norwegian School of Economics.