Despite the rising competition in China, U.S. companies still have the competitive edge in innovation and utilization of customer orientation, which enhances both customer and competitor knowledge competence and market-based innovations, according to a Michigan State University study from last year.1
A list of the world's top 100 most innovative companies compiled by Forbes proves that.2
The first three places are occupied by:
1. Tesla Motors
3. Alexion Pharmaceuticals
Other companies from the United States near the top of the list are Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Incyte, Amazon, Under Armour, BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Monster Beverage and Catamaran.
Let's have a look at first place: Tesla Motors. The company is all over the news lately, along with its CEO, Elon Musk and his other project, SpaceX. Who would not want to have a car with an autopilot or fly to Mars? But what drives their innovation?
“Customers will engage only if and when they see the company being innovative, not when a company says it will be innovative,” as professor Hult, co-author of the previously mentioned study, says.
In June 2014, Elon Musk took a leap while everyone else was taking steps. He published a blog named “All our patent are belong to you.”3 He stated that everyone should benefit from their rapidly-evolving technology platform and they won't initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use it. They believe this open source philosophy will strengthen, not diminish their position on the market. Could this new way of thinking work?
This philosophy can facilitate discussion on technology, enhance efficiency, decrease investments, increase credibility, ensure talent and knowledge flow and contribute to the development of products and countries. However, with this move, Musk also opened Tesla's patents to his rivals. There was a clear intention of doing so: to gain important partnerships.
It had a good PR spark too. The media covered the topic and it was trending on social networks. Tesla appeared for the first time in the biennial North American Suppliers' Choice Study by Deloitte and Automotive News, which measures the willingness of car makers to encourage innovation and adopt new technology. It ranked third, tied with Toyota and behind BMW and Mercedes-Benz.4
Ford and Toyota have already joined them on their “open patent” path. More industries and companies should step up their game, become more agile and adopt the mindset of open innovation. In the words of writer Malcolm Gladwell: "In order to get one of the greatest inventions of the modern age, in other words, we thought we needed the solitary genius. But if Alexander Graham Bell had fallen into the Grand River and drowned that day back in Brantford, the world would still have had the telephone, the only difference being that the telephone company would have been nicknamed Ma Gray, not Ma Bell."5 (referring to Elisha Gray, who was working on the telephone at the same time that Bell was. Bell ended up being awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone in 1876.)