Rated Ranking: 50 Smartest Companies 2015

50 Smartest Companies 2015


On June 23rd, the renowned US magazine MIT Technology Review published its annual innovation ranking “50 Smartest Companies”. It differentiates from other rankings as it is not provided by a an external partner, but from the editiorial staff of the magazine itself. To assemble the list of the most innovative companies worldwide the editors of MIT Technology Review claim not to have counted patents or PhDs, but “rather have asked whether a company had made strides in the past year that will define its field” and to “highlight where important innovations are happening right now”. Thus, unlike other innovation rankings – e.g. Thomson Reuters “Top 100 Global Innovators” – this list is not based on quantitative measures such as patents or R&D spending, but subject to the personal, non-representative perception of an editorial jury.

This year the jury has rated Tesla as the winner in terms of innovation because – in their view – the electric car maker “is extending its battery technology from cars to residential and commercial applications” and because the Palo Alto-based firm “has projected a $5 billion investment to build its battery ‘gigafactory’ in Nevada”. As in previous years, the Top 50 list is dominated by US companies, whereas European and Asian companies are clearly underrepresented. With one exception though, as there are three Chinese-based companies in the Top Ten: the smartphone producer Xiaomi (at #2), the world‘s largest online retailer Alibaba (at #4) and the internet service portal Tencent (at #7). Last year, no Chinese firm made it to the Top Ten of the ranking. This remarkable rise of Chinese companies might reflect that China is catching up with the traditional “innovation power regions“. For example, this year not a single Japanese company is listed and only one Germany-based (ThyssenKrupp at #35). Samsung (last year at #4), BMW (last year at #7) and Siemens (last year at #24) completely disappeared from the Top 50 list, as compared to 2014.

The “50 Smartest Companies” list can be applauded because it provides a new and different perspective on innovation leaders different than the “usual suspects” like Apple or Google that regularly top other innovation rankings. The big caveat is that its methodology is merely based on the personal views of its editorial team – and therefore highly subjective. It is also irritating that the methodology is not easy to find on the internet and that the criteria for the individual evaluations of the jury are not disclosed. The fact that the “50 Smartest Companies” is published on a yearly basis, allows comparisons and see trends over time – one key added value of rankings.

Summarizing, MIT Technology Review’s “50 Smartest Companies” is a partially useful ranking to learn about allegedly innovative companies and to identify trends over time. However, caution is necessary: The companies listed are nothing more than a subjective evaluation of a non-representative small group: MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff. The biggest caveat is that the authors do not provide any reference on how exactly they got there. More transparency in the future is desirable. If the makers of this ranking work on these weaknesses, this ranking has potential to be seen as an important benchmark in the field of innovation trends worldwide.

You can access the ranking at: http://www.technologyreview.com/lists/companies/2015/

Relevance / Impact
– 13 points –
Added Value / Insights
– 9 points –

Trustworthiness / Intention
– 15 points –
– 3 points –

Aggregated points
– 40 (out of 60) –
Highly valuable ranking

Useful ranking with some flaws

Partially useful ranking with considerable flaws

< 30
Useless ranking

Reach of publication:

  • Global, e.g. North America, Europe and Asia (5 points)
  • Regional, e.g. Europe or North America (3 points)
  • Large national market: e.g. US, China, Japan, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Brazil (2 points)
  • Mid-sized or small market, e.g. Switzerland, Netherlands, Argentina, Singapore (1 point)

Ranking will be recognized by key stakeholders:

  • Opinion Leaders (Politicians, Professors; NGO’s) (2 points)
  • Business Advisory Board, C-Level Executives (CEO, CCO, CFO, CMO) (2 points)
  • High Potentials & Top Talents (employer market, students) (2 points)
  • Financial Market (2 points)
  • General Public (2 points)

Aggregated points: 13 (of max. 15)

Is the owner providing the ranking a credible and trustworthy organization?

  • Ranking owner has limited credibility and reputation. (1 point)
  • Ranking owner has fair credibility and reputation. (3 points)
  • Ranking owner has excellent credibility and reputation. (5 points)

What is the ranking owner’s intention to produce and disseminate the ranking?

  • Ranking is predominantly a tool to raise awareness for the owner with the possible intention to sell consultancy services. (1 point)
  • Ranking is partly a tool to raise awareness for the owner with the possible intention to sell consultancy services. (3 points)
  • Ranking is predominantly a tool to surface and share important insights on the subject surveyed. (5 points)

Is/Are the media outlet(s) where the ranking is published of high credibility and reputation?

  • Media outlet(s) has/have limited credibility and reputation. (1 point)
  • Media outlet(s) has/have fair credibility and reputation. (3 points)
  • Media outlet(s) has/have excellent credibility and reputation. (5 points)

Aggregated points: 15 (of max. 15)

Do the ranking results provide overall orientation where companies stand?

  • limited orientation only (1 point)
  • fair orientation provided (3 points)
  • very good orientation (5 points)

Is the Ranking published in the same format on a regular basis, e.g. annually, which allows to track developments and comparisons over time?

  • ranking is published for the first time (1 point)
  • ranking is published for the second time in the same format (3 points)
  • ranking is published for more than 3 times on a regular basis in the same format (5 points)

Do the ranking results provide added value and further insights on how companies are evaluated in in their industry, e.g. detailed ratings in various sub-dimensions of the overall result?

  • limited added value only (1 point)
  • fair amount of added value (3 points)
  • high amount of added value (5 points)

Comment: Industries are indicated in ranking but no separate industry rankings or detailed ratings in subdimensions.

Aggregated points: 9 (of max. 15)

Is the ranking based on a representative survey among key stakeholders or on a jury only?

  • Ranking is based on a jury’s opinion only. (1 point)
  • Ranking is based on a small survey or only on a limited group of stakeholders. (3 points)
  • Ranking is based on a robust and representative survey. (5 points)

Comment: Ranking is based on the editors‘ opinion only to 'highlight companies that have displayed impressive innovations in the past year'.

Is the ranking methodology easy to understand and reasonable – even for non-statisticians?

  • Methodology not easy to understand and not reasonable. (1 point)
  • Methodology fairly good to understand and reasonable. (3 points)
  • Methodology very easy to understand and reasonable. (5 points)

Comment: No further information on how exactly the editors choose the 50 companies for the ranking given in online version.

Is the ranking methodology easy to access and transparent?

  • Methodology not easy to find and not sufficiently transparent. (1 point)
  • Methodology fairly good to find and of medium transparency. (3 points)
  • Methodology very easy to find and of high transparency. (5 points)

Comment: In the online version of the ranking, the methodology is not described at all. A short description of how the ranking is put together can be found in the FAQ.

Aggregated points: 3 (of max. 15)

Ranking category

  • Product / Service Brands
  • Company Brands
  • Corporate Reputation and Company Esteem
  • Social Responsibility, CSR & Sustainability, Ethical Business Practices
  • Innovation & Technology
  • Employer Attractiveness & Diversity
  • Leadership
  • Nations & Destinations
  • University & Other Institutions
  • Sports
  • Lifestyle
  • Social Media
  • Personal Branding & CEOs

Ranking statistics

  • Name of Ranking: 50 Smartest Companies 2015 2015
  • Ranking managed/produced by institute/organization: MIT Technology Review
  • Ranking published by media outlet: MIT Technology Review
  • Date of recent publication: June 23, 2015
  • Date of previous publication: February 18, 2014

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