Industry Giants Toyota, Amazon, IKEA, and Honda are Among the Most Innovative Companies to be Recognized at the 6th Annual American Innovation Conference in New York City
Featured Events | Nov 17, 2023 | Gabelli School of Business
On November 14, 2023, at the 6th Annual American Innovation Conference, panelists from companies that were ranked most innovative by consumers in the 2023 American Innovation Index™, an annual report based upon research conducted by Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business Responsible Business Center, Rockbridge Associates, and the Norwegian School of Economics, convened on Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus and revealed the strategies that have resulted in consumers selecting them as top innovators in their industry sectors.
Entrepreneurs and academics from across industries had the opportunity to network over lunch and hear from thought leaders and innovators from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Sales US, IKEA US, and Ford Motor Company.
The Conference opened with a keynote address by Alessandro Benetton, entrepreneur, chairman of Edizione S.p.A. and deputy chairman of Mundys, a European leader in innovation, sustainability, and mobility services at a global level. Benetton highlighted the company’s focus on investments in sustainable and innovative infrastructure, providing examples of its pioneering approach to operating airports and motorways, including Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino International Airport, where the first business accelerator dedicated to aviation start-ups was founded one year ago.
Benneton stressed that now is the time for a major revolution in the mobility and infrastructure service sectors. New generations demanded it, and the planet needs it. To accomplish this, he noted, businesses must integrate innovation into every aspect of what they do.
The keynote was followed by a fireside chat featuring Gabelli School of Business Dean Lerzan Aksoy, Ph.D., an expert in customer satisfaction, innovation, and social responsibility, and Luke Williams, a New York Times bestselling author and senior director, CX Measurement & Insight Strategy at Microsoft.
Williams shared some of the biggest challenges to innovation, explaining that ideas are a dime a dozen and execution is the biggest barrier to innovation. He added that people can play huge roles in innovation even if they aren’t the idea generator. Being a part of the team and helping to bring the idea to fruition can have just as significant of an impact. To new graduates, he advised to always choose opportunity over money. People with all the money in the world are constantly looking for opportunity. Recognizing what an opportunity looks like is one of the hardest skills in life.
Gina Woodall, vice president & group director, Rockbridge Associates, a part of Illuminas, provided insights into the research behind the American Innovation Index™ to uncover what makes companies innovative and how customer perceptions can be used to plan long-range strategy to drive growth. Most importantly, she shared that you don’t need to be a tech company to be considered innovative by your customers and innovation comes with significant rewards. Perceived innovation increases shareholder wealth by 8 percent.
The Conference’s first panel “Consumer Perceived Innovativeness: The Collaborative Role of Marketing and R&D,” featured Tom Gavitt, innovation & co-creation manager, IKEA US; Artealia Gilliard, lead, environmental leadership and sustainability, Ford Motor Company; and Sertan Kabadayi, Ph.D., professor of marketing, Joseph Keating SJ, distinguished professor in business, and director of the Professional MBA program, Fordham University Gabelli School of Business, who discussed ways to manage teams to maximize the innovation down-stream to customers that leads to greater retention and growth. It was moderated by Lydia Dishman, senior editor, growth & engagement at Fastcompany.com.
The panel highlighted why some companies might be hesitant to innovate. Innovation can mean change and risk. That’s why changemakers must prepare strategies to secure buy-in both within an organization and externally with customers.
A panel titled “The Challenge of Innovating Sustainably & Ethically,” featuring Jessica Boothe, director of market research, Consumer Technology Association; Timothy Hedley, Ph.D., CPA, CFF, CFE, executive-in-residence, Gabelli School of Business; and Brian Kiser, automotive training specialist at Toyota Motor Sales USA, was moderated by Jorge Martinez Navarrete, lead innovation unit, United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology, and focused on how companies are balancing innovation in ways that also embrace sustainability and ethically sound business practices.
Data can be a significant resource to drive innovation, but when using customer data, companies must be respectful to not break a customer’s trust with the brand. Companies must invest in protecting customer data from a cybersecurity perspective, but also be transparent about how they are planning to use this data. Most customers are willing to share their data if they believe it will enhance their experience and create personal value.
The last panel, “Innovation’s Role in Attracting and Retaining Top-Tier Talent,” was moderated by Wall Street Journal reporter, Lauren Weber. She interviewed Jennifer Thomas, VP of Corporate Affairs, American Honda Motor Co.; Valerie Singer, general manager global education, Amazon Web Services; and Connie Steele, principal, co-founder, Flywheel Associates.
The panelist agreed that to create an environment of innovation, companies should embrace a “flat” structure that encourages new ideas from every employee, regardless of title. At Honda, this is accomplished through the implementation of a standardized uniform at production facilities so that all employees display the look of a team.
The discussions were followed by an awards ceremony during which Toyota, Amazon, Ameriprise Financial, Bath and Body Works, Chime, Ford, Honda, IKEA, Microsoft, and Navy Federal were recognized.