When it comes to choosing America’s most innovative companies, customers who use those companies’ products often have the most insight.
John Deere’s customers certainly aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
The company’s customers placed John Deere high on a list of America’s most innovative companies as part of the American Innovation Index (Aii), the only survey in the U.S. measuring company innovativeness based on customers’ experiences. The Aii is a joint project with Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, the Norwegian School of Economics, and market research firm Rockbridge Associates, Inc.
The Aii covers nearly 200 firms from 21 industries, such as airlines, hotels, banks, TV and Internet service providers, wireless phone providers, manufacturers, retailers, and utilities.
“In a competitive consumer market, innovation propels companies to the top of their industry and drives their growth and financial performance,” said Lerzan Aksoy, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Fordham.
“The American Innovation Index recognizes the companies with the highest innovation index scores based on consumer ratings,” Aksoy explained. “These companies have mobilized resources in a manner that makes customers notice they are creative, pioneers, and shapers in their industry.”
The Aii research also credited John Deere for its innovative efforts in citizenship and sustainability, ranking the company number three overall in what it termed “social innovation.” The researchers described social innovation as “work that primarily benefits society rather than specific individuals or organizations.” Toyota and Honda earned first and second place, respectively, in social innovation.
The world’s most innovative companies
John Deere ranked 13th overall in the Innovation Index and third in the Consumer Durables and Heavy Equipment category.
“John Deere employees make significant efforts in the research and development of our products, which can lead to breakthroughs, customer-valued innovation,” said Chris Myers, vice president, Advanced Technology and Engineering, John Deere. “It is truly gratifying to see John Deere and its employees recognized for those efforts.”
Representatives from five of the most innovative companies in the world, including John Deere, shared insights with Fordham University students at the Aii awards ceremony held at the university’s Lincoln Center campus Oct. 2.
The top 20 leaders on the Aii received awards. Along with John Deere, recipients include: Apple, Honda, Weber, Toyota, Amazon, Ikea, Google, Netflix, Navy Federal Credit Union, Samsung, Ford, GM, Airbnb, Trader Joe’s, Chick-fil-A, Stanley Black & Decker, Aflac, Microsoft, and Southwest Airlines.
Celebrating social innovation
Aksoy said the Aii rating is meant to provide value to companies because those that are viewed by their customers as socially innovative achieve unique advantages in loyalty and that contribute to long-term marketplace success.
Because the Social Innovation Index is based on customer perceptions, it has a high level of objectivity and market validity, Aksoy said, adding that when it’s used along with internal-metric evaluations, it can help provide a more complete picture of the company.
Mark Moran, director of the Deere Technology Innovation Center in Champaign, Illinois, accepted the Aii Awards on behalf of the company. Moran said that the methodology behind the Aii award was especially meaningful because it was based on customers’ perceptions.
“It also seems right that Deere was recognized for its social innovation,” Moran said. “It’s because the things we do are so fundamental to – as (former Deere CEO) Bob Lane phrased it – `human flourishing.’ For a long time, Deere has focused on value for all our stakeholders – doing things right as well as doing the right things.”
“John Deere is honored to be recognized for our work in social innovation,” said Mara Downing, vice president of global brand and communications, John Deere. “For 182 years, Deere has worked with its customers to tackle the global challenges of food security and economic empowerment by delivering productivity-enhancing innovations.”