The April 20, 2009 issue of Business Week lists the twenty-five most innovative companies in the world — and McDonald’s is #19. Surprising? Well, if you equate innovation with end-products, I guess it’s a bit surprising. However, if you think of the scope of innovation as encompassing your entire business model, then it’s not so surprising. It’s a lesson in how leading companies stay in the lead. Sometimes your products are the focus of innovation; sometimes the operation that creates your products is the focus of innovation.
Think about McDonald’s Big Mac for a bit. It’s been around for decades and any tinkering with the product (secret sauce, anyone?) may do as much harm as good. So where’s the room for innovation? How about supply chain? What might it take to keep a winning product affordable to it’s loyal customers?
And here’s another thought regarding innovation — look at the restaurants and the ability of McD’s franchisees to innovate in a lot of little ways. On a cold winter’s morning I really like going out of my way to the neighboring McD’s where the operator has this delightful area with a fireplace and comfortable chairs and dark paneling. That didn’t come from a corporate innovation board, it came from someone who thought about innovating the total customer experience.
Next time you go to McD’s for a burger and fries, look around and think about the innovations that made this American staple such an American staple. Think about their total business model. Now go back to your office and think about “little innovation.” What might you do to make your business an American icon?