5 Drivers of Business Innovation

Innovation is critical not only to business success, but to its very survival.  Why is innovation so important? Fresh approaches, new ways of delivering ideas, visual and content changes all keep people interested and coming back. Innovation is NOT exclusive to big brands, but is, in fact, essential for ALL brands.


Fast Company lists the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies, those firms that transform and impact their industry time and again.  There are 5 drivers of innovation:

  • Technology
  • Demographics
  • Attention
  • Usability
  • 3 F’s: Fresh, Fun, Fab

These 50 made the list because they all demonstrate these drivers and ultimately offer up fresh, fun and fab.

The Fast Company’s list is a mix of  Icons — Amazon, UPS, NFL, HBO — and New-cons,  like Solar City,  Kiva Systems, Pinterest and Square. These companies are full of new ideas and untapped niches from everything like monitoring the oceans deep to solving customers pet peeves to becoming a dairy superstar. Others simply take a new twist on a tried and true concept, like Starbucks who is recognized for its ability to infuse a steady stream of new ideas in order to revive its business, and the NFL, an organization that is able to create year-round demand for professional football.

Let’s look at some of these inspiring, innovative companies in some key categories:

Paypal has enabled online payments  to more than 9 million web retailers, and the giant is now partnering with other retailers to push its platform into the physical world. Square is changing the old act of exchanging money for goods and services through apps and other cool tools.

Web and Internet
Badoo offers a new twist on the world of internet dating and Pinterest has transformed web images into a visual feast.

Pandora internet radio blew estimates out of the water and its listener stats continue to increase. Ticketmaster finally found more ways to attract customers and give them a reason to want to go to and stay on the site.

Instagram has completely transformed the way people take professional looking photos and post them to all the social sites, and Flipboard emerged as another tool for consuming and organizing content.

Twitter continues to drive the viral, immediate global dialogue and the New York Times (NYT) online proved that digital and print sales can work together.

Social Media
American Express has been an early adopter and innovator offering new mobile platforms and online business content. Facebook is the most intuitive,  innovative and engaging social platform, that all others continue to chase.

Amazon continues to show it can profit off both hardware and media sales and Patagonia is setting the bar for sustainability.

All of these examples show how trends, demographics and psycho-graphics impact the consumer and lifestyle world. Innovation is vital to keeping up with how we are all aging, changing and consuming.

BusinessLink walks you through the creative process toward innovation.

Seth Godin talks about making a rukus in your industry by “bringing forward a new idea or technology that disrupts and demands a response, or redefining a service as a product.”

Most innovation is inspired by simply emulating what the best are doing, as demonstated by the Top 50 above.  We redecorate, rebrand our businesses, and makeover our look and wardrobe. This is inspired by innovation and relevance, important partners.

So, how can you innovate and inspire your business clients, social followers, friends and raging fans?

Driver Photo via Shutterstock


Deborah Shane Deborah Shane has been recognized as a Top 100 Small Business Champion and Top 50 SMB Influencer (Dunn and Bradstreet 2015). She is a career transition author, personal branding and social media specialist. Deborah's book "Career Transition: Make the Shift" is available through all major book sellers.

14 Reactions
  1. Sometimes it doesn’t get classified as innovation, but I think that some companies inspire by going old-school. I see a lot of potential in the food industry for companies that can get us back to the system of knowing where your food comes from and having relationships with farmers and other producers like the butcher or baker.

  2. I agree that innovation is vital to business success.

    As part of The Get America Growing Project we’ve interviewed 200 + CEOs of America’s fastest growing companies and have found that many of them are where they are because they took the prevalent business model in their industry and turned it upside down adding more value to their clients and stakeholders.

    I also agree that innovation can be inspired by emulating what the best are doing. That’s actually the philosophy behind the Get America Growing Project and this same philosphy can be applied to all areas of business.

  3. Robert, love that idea and yes, the go local and grow local is a big trend now!

  4. Steve, value, and fresh eyes are great drivers of innovation. I have been watching closely how companies who have longevity approach innovation. Fresh, Fun, Fab..Works really good. Like to know more about your project!

    • Deborah, I would be very interested in learning more how companies who have longevity approach innovation and your work.

      Basically The Get America Growing Project is about helping small businesses adapt and adopt the strategies, tactics, ideas and best practices of America’s fastest growing companies thereby creating growth, jobs and a healthy vibrant economy.

      So far we’ve interviewed 200+ CEOs and took a very close look at a significant number of them to figure out why some companies go out of business while others grow 500, 700, or even 3000% or more.

      We spent the last 12 months collecting all of our research, now we’re starting to release our findings.

      I would be excited to talk with you about your research and maybe even do an interview, if you’re open to it.


  5. Fascinating topic that is so crucial to avoiding rapid commoditization of today’s global markets.

    Innovation itself can be innovated by cultivating it in not just new products/services or expecting it from specific groups accountable for innovation, but nurturing an environment where anyone in an organization can innovate any time.

    • Jen, totally agree with fostering and inspiring people who work together to brainstorm collectively and individually. I have always enjoyed the “brainstorm” with colleagues and clients. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Excellent information and can be applied so many places, as we start to think and grow sector strategies in workforce and economic development, this article fits right in. Thanks

  7. Sarah, nice to see you on our community from the UK. Please come back!

  8. Thanks for the link back and reference on your blog!!