Managing Director & Partner
Innovation has never been more important—and leading innovators are showing why. The top 50 companies in the 2023 Most Innovative Companies report outperform the MSCI World Index on shareholder return by 3.3 percentage points per year.
In this year’s Most Innovative Companies report, we examine what innovation-ready leaders (those that are ready to develop product, process, and business model innovations that can deliver sustainable impact) are doing to pull ahead. We also discuss the importance of innovation in terms of how it helps leaders build their resilience to economic uncertainty.
Leaders are consistently delivering new products, entering new markets, and establishing new revenue streams, while laggards struggle to make headway beyond incremental improvements.
Times have changed. During the 2009 downturn, only 58% of companies planned to increase spending and almost 15% expected to cut innovation investment. Today, a growing number of companies are beginning to recognize the advantages of innovation, with 79% ranking it among their top three priorities (15 points more than in 2009) and 66% planning to increase spending (42% by more than 10%).
The question is not whether AI can have an impact, but rather if companies are using AI properly and for use cases with the potential to drive real business value.
Once again, we see the most innovative companies producing greater shareholder returns and building resilience and advantage through innovation. BCG’s 2023 global survey highlights the advantages of innovation and how leaders are outpacing others by using tools whose importance is climbing fast, such as M&A, portfolio planning, and AI.
Our 2023 survey found a near-record high level of innovation importance: 79% of companies ranked innovation among their top three priorities, up from 75% in 2022, and more than 40% expect to significantly increase spending this year, a jump of 16 percentage points over the last economic downturn in 2009.
But there is also an emerging group of companies that is going much further and putting innovation front and center in their future growth strategies. While all companies on average expect to allocate more money toward incremental innovations close to the core, this small group of innovation-ready companies is allocating fully one-third of spending toward developing breakthrough innovations.
These companies use a wide array of strategic tools to strengthen their innovation platforms and practices and are much more aggressive in their use of M&A, targeting innovative technologies or processes, or acquiring leaders and employees with a demonstrated ability to innovate. They also are more likely to orchestrate or participate in ecosystems, engaging with external partners—and even competitors—on innovations. They drive digital innovation with a clear bias toward new digital products, agile teaming, and improving customer and marketing insights. They leverage the power of innovation in AI, and regularly review the performance of innovation units or vehicles and shift resources toward centers of success. They understand that effective portfolio governance and management, especially with respect to data transparency, are key to driving impact.