Innovation spotlight: Salesforce and its 1000 patents

This series helps you broaden your knowledge of creative approaches with some of the world's most innovative companies. This week, we're taking a look at Salesforce.

Charlie de Rusett
by Charlie de Rusett
salesforce logo

It’s quite something to be named within the top ten most innovative companies in the world by Forbes. It’s quite something else to be named within the top ten for eight years running.

Salesforce has filed over 1000 technology patents of its own since it was formed in 1999. Today, it has over 29,000 employees with annual revenue of around $10.4 billion. It has won the top spot on the Forbes Most Innovative Companies list multiple times, including recently in 2017.

How does a company manage to stay so consistently innovative in a time of such upheaval and disruption? Well, that’s the question we want to explore today.

Cultural innovation

Salesforce talks a lot about company culture being the foundation of its success. And, whilst this is a sentiment echoed by many of its competitors, for Salesforce it’s not just about maintaining a culture of innovation, but a genuinely innovative work culture.

What do we mean by this? As an example, we’ll take Salesforce’s product roadmap that it uses for training new sales employees. Whilst most companies may start with their flagship platform at the top of the product hierarchy, Salesforce’s founder Marc Benioff lists ‘Trust’ as their number one product.

Benioff knows that it’s not any specific product functionality that keeps customers coming back time and again. It’s the overall faith in their systems and their team. That’s what an innovative work culture means – you look at normal business operations in a completely different light from your competitors. That’s a process that has to start from the top down.

The six principles of innovation

In terms of the actual working processes that drive innovation in the company, Salesforce has made public its approach to creative thinking in an article on their Six Principles Driving Innovation. Interestingly, many of these key principles map to the skills Idea Drop has mapped out for great innovation leaders. These include empathy, vision, communication and completionism – some of the main tenets of a quality innovation manager.

Salesforces’ six principles function not only as a powerful innovation process but also enable you to systemise the transition from a creative framework to a project management one. At Idea Drop, our Pipeline functionality can be mapped to these individual stages, allowing you to manage the innovation process from end-to-end on a single platform.

The power of exploration

It’s difficult to conceptualise exactly what makes Salesforce so innovative. However, the more we discover about its products and processes, the more an intangible sense of openness begins to manifest. We like to sum up this feeling as the power of exploration – the key attribute that makes Salesforce different, from its products to its company culture.

Salesforce employees are encouraged to move around and explore different areas of the business every couple of years. Its products have seamless sandbox integrations that allow developers to build in a consequence-free environment. Innovators in the business are given small budgets to experiment with new MVP ideas. And, to make all these innovations function together, there is a culture of honest communication and transparency that makes sure everyone learns from everyone else’s projects.

It’s all of these things that has powered Salesforce’s one thousand patent landmark and keeps it returning to the Forbes list every year. If you’d like to learn how you can implement some of them in your business, get in touch with us here at Idea Drop. We can help you build powerful innovation systems that will help you compete with the biggest change makers in your industry.

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