The Fastest Companies

Greetings. As a strategy and innovation consultant, I always look forward to Fast Company’s annual issue on “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.” It is a quick read and a great chance to be inspired by some of the most creative and disruptive businesses and organizations on the planet. And I would think that it should be required reading for all of us as we try to keep up in our super-fast changing economy.

Fast Company 2016

This year’s issue shows just how diverse and remarkable the practice of innovation has become as new technology companies like Buzzfeed, Airbnb, Uber, Spotify, Robinhood and others continue to re-imagine existing industries while more traditional companies like CVS Health, Universal Studios, GE, and even Taco Bell reinvent themselves in ways that bring greater value to their customers. In the case of 53-year-old CVS, a company that gained a lot of very positive publicity when it decided to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products, it is not-so-quietly morphing from a huge ($153 billion in annual revenues) drugstore chain into a one-stop retail healthcare business with its Minute Clinics, optical and hearing exams, a new focus on wellness offerings, and a new “predictive medicine” partnership with IBM.

Buzzfeed, this year’s top innovator is continuing to transform the media landscape of video, news and information, and advertising through its culture of constant learning and embracing change, a sharp focus on data-driven metrics, and a deep understanding of what made companies like Paramount Pictures and CNN connect with audiences in the past.

I often talk about the power of learning from strangers and getting outside our offices and our comfort zones to discover new insights and new business models. And while the physical and psychological act of getting up and out is a powerful part of what it takes to stretch our thinking, a quick or slow read of this issue is bound to inspire anyone with a commitment to being faster in a world that demands that we pick up the pace.

We win in business and in life when we pay attention to brilliance all around us, and when we recognize the need for speed.


“Do You Need More Drugs?”

Greetings.  We all know that tough economic times require companies to do a better job of engaging their customers in order to win more of their business.  By staying in touch, being helpful, making life easier, delivering more knowledge and insight, making offers they can't refuse, and looking for any way–creative or not–to provide even greater value.  So getting a call from a company I do business with, even on a Saturday afternoon, should not have come as a big surprise.

Except when the call was from my CVS pharmacy.

"Mr. Gregerman, how are you today?" asked a pleasant voice on the other end of the phone.  "I'm fine, and how are you?" I replied.  "Great, thanks for asking.  I'm calling about your prescriptions," she continued.  'Prescriptions?'  I wondered to myself, only able to recall having one that I used all too infrequently.  "Is there anything wrong?" I asked, suddenly imagining that my pill had been recalled, or that they'd given me the wrong pill, or the wrong dose, or that I was about to have some cataclysmic drug interaction by virtue of eating way too much peanut butter. "No, everything's fine.  We're just calling to see if you need any more prescriptions."

And for a split second I wondered:  "Do I need more drugs?"  Pondering the possibility of some amazing pill or secret formula that might make me healthier, stronger, wiser, more beautiful, or able to recall unmemorable events.  Then, just as quickly, reality set in and I said that I was doing fine in the drug department–relying primarily on one baby aspirin and an undisclosed amount of chocolate (i.e., antioxidants) each day.

Then I started thinking about the oddness of a drugstore calling to see if I needed more drugs, and what special pills we might offer our customers as consultants, hardware stores, hotels, web portals, or government IT and defense contractors. "Pills" that could make them healthier, stronger, wiser, more beautiful, or able to create far more memorable results.  Pills that could make them more resilient in the face of their most pressing challenges.

We win in business by always looking for real opportunities to deliver greater value to those we serve.  Even when they don't need more drugs, they could use a bit more insight and innovation.

Cheers and don't forget to take your medicine…even if it's only chocolate!