Harvard Business Review published a great story, entitled How to Tell If a Company Is Good at Innovating or Just Good at PR. In the piece, Scott Anthony discusses that some companies pursue innovation with rigor while others spend significant time marketing innovation (coined “innoganda”) but really don’t do much in terms of creating disruptive technologies and services. In addition, Anthony astutely states that certain companies pursue innovation with rigor, but they do so under the radar.

Having analyzed innovation for many years, an effective way to determine if a company is good at innovating is by looking at their investment in innovation. By understanding where a company is spending money, you are able to see the technologies, brands, and markets the company hopes to conquer in the near future.

By looking at current investments made by Amazon.com and Marathon Oil some of the innovations taking place under the radar are able to be uncovered.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com regularly reinvents itself. From an online bookseller, to top distributor of consumer goods, to the head cloud computing solution provider, to a media company and more. In looking at the company’s recent innovations, it is as if amazon wants to disrupt itself.

  • Courier management systems
  • Digital coupon systems
  • Cost tracking for virtual control planes
  • Information security systems, including delegation of access privileges, time-based content management for disconnected devices
  • Data center cooling systems
  • Robots for inventory management
  • Digital camera technologies, including electrowetting displays, image processing, and image devices

Marathon Oil

On its website, Marathon talks about going further and doing more. They also mention their commitment to developing strategic assets. When looking at the top innovations of late, we are left seeing nothing more than a traditional oil company.

  • Processing Oils
  • Petroleum Refining
  • Wells

Again, as companies push innovation through PR propaganda, investors, researchers, and interested individuals, they need to look deeper at their innovation to understand the true innovation and future value being created to prevent being disrupted by new entrants.