There is so much talk about innovation that it can be hard to separate the facts from the bs.
Booz and Company's global innovation 1000 study has some fascinating actual data to report.
The actual graphic is interactive.
One thing that stands out for me here is that these firms are getting feedback at EVERY STAGE of the innovation process. I believe this is a key to success, and am happy to see that the leaders are proving that.
"We are seeing the first signs of a digital revolution that will transform how innovation is done" - Booz + Co
Social media analytics
Customer sentiment analysis (using automated tools to analyze social media sentiment) is ranked among the least effective on the customer insight grouping (see lower left in the graphic).
There are now a couple of hundred social media analytics tools, ranging from the expensive enterprise quality stuff (e.g. Radian 6, Conversition) to the free ones (searching on Google, Facebook, Twitter), and a bunch you have probably never heard of.
The challenge is going from sentiment (I like Pizza Hut better than Pizza Pizza) to something that will help you with customer insight and innovation.
The thing is -- you CAN get a lot of good insights from social media IMHO. But automated tools are not yet at the place where they can replace the insights of a human brain. The tools are great for tracking (Are more people talking about Toyota or about Ford?) and they are great for ensuring a firm can respond quickly to problems on social media (think Yelp reviews, for example).
But you still need a person to actually dip into those samples and try to understand what is actually going on beyond "mentions".
On a more philosophical level, is it really a good thing to have managers so far removed from customer concerns that an analytics engine does their thinking for them? Not in my view.
R+D spending, and staying out in front
I also loved the charts that looked at R+D spending over a period of several years.
The companies on this list are fascinating -- most should make excellent investments over the long term, and all are known for innovation.
Booz + Co highlights the use of digital tools, such as Caterpillar's use of digital immersion labs, where users can interact with products not yet built. This makes a lot of sense for Caterpillar (who makes BIG stuff). But might not be as necessary if your product is a little more prosaic. You can certainly use the old fashioned face to face immersion labs for many categories with tremendous success.
The point, I think, is not so much the "digital", it is the "immersion" in the customer's world.
However, the study also highlights the use of digital tools to improve productivity. Using 3D printing, for example, makes a great deal of sense as a prototyping approach.