The first thing that struck me when I scanned BusinessWeeks’s list of the 50 most innovative companies in the world was that there was not even one Australian company on the list.
You might think that the list would be US-centric and yes, the number 1 and 2 spots are held by Apple and Google, but third up is Japan’s Toyota with the Tata Group of India in 6th place.
It would also be easy to be dismissive and say that only countries with the right size in population or economy could produce highly innovative companies, but how does this explain Canada’s appearance at number 13, courtesy of Research in Motion.
Nor does the list only include well established economies – Samsung brings South Korea in at number 26.
There is so much potential in Australia that I am almost dumbfounded that we have not been able to put ourselves amongst the Top 50. We were able to rise to the top within the sports arena through sheer focus and hard work – it is high time this translated across into business.
As the business cycle enters a period of battening down the hatches, there will be those Australian executives who’ll say that they are glad they didn’t commit to an innovation strategy.
But they’d be dead wrong. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sums it up, “My view is there’s no bad time to innovate. You should be doing it when times are good and when times are tough – and you want to be doing it around things that your customers care about.”
“Constraints drive innovation.” Amazon, which is number 11 on the list, innovated its now widely emulated affiliates program to compensate for a lack of marketing budget.
The key takeout from his interview: Innovation does not require big budgets, but it does require “thoughtfulness and focus on the customer”.
The time to innovate is now.
[Picture courtesy of netsrot]