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Quickly, who do you think are some of the most innovative companies in the world?

If you said, IBM, Samsung, Canon, Sony, Microsoft, Panasonic, Toshiba, Hon Hai Precision, Qualcomm, LG, Google, Fujitsu, Apple, GE or GM, congratulations, you also happened to pick one of the top 15 companies in the IFI index that captures numbers of patent applications.

What about Nike? Not in the top 50. What about DropBox? Not in the top 50. VMWare, Amazon.com, Starbucks, Yum!, PepsiCo, or Tyco? Nope, not in the top 50. But Blackberry is. Surprised?

Personally, when I think about the most innovative companies, I often assume a few characteristics including:  1) typically technology based, 2) often very market successful, 3) in highly competitive fields and 4) unique. But, companies like Starbucks, Kinkos, Uber and many others often demonstrate that innovation need not be technology based. And Blackberry certainly destroys the idea of the most market successful. Equally, highly competitive and unique aren’t requirements either.

But clearly, pursuing lots of patents also doesn’t equal innovation. Is Qualcomm more innovative than Amazon? VMWare is less innovative than Cisco?

What do you think defines innovative?