Top Ten In-Market partners for 2011

Reflecting on 2011, which was a pretty special year for Immersion Lab, I figured we must have met with over 300 organizations around the globe (more likely 350 but many of them hosted us more than once).  This got me thinking about the attributes that exist in companies that are willing, completely on a goodwill basis, to meet with strangers and share their insights and experiences.  Everyone is time pressured in these uncertain and turbulent times, so what is the special magic powering organizations that appreciate the value of dialogue with less-typical partners?  What is the culture that exists in these companies who routinely externalize their perspective, both sharing and soliciting insights and market intelligence in these immersive exchanges?

On deeper reflection five common attributes started emerging on leaders and organizations who truly appreciate the value of fostering “outside-in” thinking:

Accessible:  They can be easily contacted; their public profiles are updated and available, and key staff facilitate access to them. In fact one of the most remarkable impressions we have of India is the accessibility of their senior executives especially C-Suite and their generous willingness to give of their time.

Content:  These organizations have areas of expertise that are recognized and rewarded.  They have a strong point of view on their core areas of competence and a systemic approach to honing these capabilities in their organization (think 3M on Innovation; Cisco on Collaboration and Strategic Partnering; HCL Technologies on Employee Engagement).

Innovative:  More often than not, these companies are innovators – not always in the classical sense.  Some of the most innovative organizations we met in 2011 (new business models, disrupting current mainstream players, new delivery models etc.) did not even think about innovation as a capability.  It’s embedded.

Entrepreneurial:  Large or small, our top In-Market partners maintain an entrepreneurial spirit. The tension of risk and initiative is effortlessly balanced with organization and structure.  Ideas flourish in an empowered and engaged culture.

Inspiring Leaders: No surprises here.  Our participants return from meetings with our favorite In-Market partners, energized and inspired.  Leaders from these organizations walk-the-walk and demonstrate a high alignment with their organization’s values and their own behavior.  Gravitas prevails!

So here goes – against this list of attributes and voted by our team the top companies in the world with embedded “outside-in” DNA for 2011:

1. Cisco (everywhere)
2. HCL Technologies (USA and India)
3. 3M (everywhere)
4. Impact India (India)
5. Mandarin Oriental (everywhere)
6. BIND Bio-Science (Boston)
7. Patients Like Me (Boston)
8. Crowdflower (Silicon Valley)
9. Baidu (China)
10. Safricom (Kenya)

 This was a very challenging process – all 300 organizations deserve a mention.  Thank you all of you for your support!