Bronx, New York, UNITED STATES

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, Dec. 10, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Social innovation and market disruption were among the themes discussed at the 2nd annual American Innovation Conference held October 2 at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business campus in New York.  The business school, in partnership with the Norwegian School of Economics, and market research firm Rockbridge Associates, Inc., hosted this forum dedicated to sharing, collaborating, and celebrating customer-focused innovation, social innovation and their impact on company success. The conference featured speakers representing America’s most innovative companies, including Aflac, IKEA, John Deere, Stanley Black & Decker and Toyota, and gave awards to a roster of innovation winners that also included Amazon, Chick-fil-A, Ford, and Trader Joes.

The conference focused on what it means from a customer point of view to be “innovative” in delivering products and services, and “socially innovative” in benefiting society and the environment.  Noting that award winners come from diverse industries including automotive, retail, insurance, food and technology, Fordham Professor Lerzan Aksoy, emcee of the conference, said “It is heartening and extraordinary that innovation is not the province of a particular industry and proves that innovation that enriches the lives of individuals, and that seeks to make the world a better place, is possible for all firms.”  

The conference speakers included research experts and leaders from innovative companies.  The keynote speaker was Tor Andreassen, Professor of Innovation at the Norwegian School of Economics, who spoke on the topic “When Quality is Not Enough.”  He talked about a tech-driven world shaken by disruptors and drove home the lesson that financially sustainable companies use innovation to stimulate active and positive emotions in customer relationships. The Chief Methodologist for the study, Charles Colby from Rockbridge Associates, Inc., stressed the importance of bringing innovation downstream so it is visible and meaningful to customers. 

At the conference, companies rated highly on the 2019 American Innovation Index™ were celebrated, and speakers from these organizations spoke about how they approach and view innovation.  Maria Møllerskov Jonzo, a customer experience and insights leader at IKEA spoke about her company’s commitment to its customers, reliance on customer feedback and design thinking as drivers of its innovation practices.  Two iconic brands, John Deere and Stanley Black & Decker, are viewed as both innovative and socially innovative by their customers. These companies cited a commitment to continuous innovation with a social purpose as a central theme in their organizations that drives their success.  Mark Maybury, CTO at Stanley Black & Decker, said the secret to innovation is to observe carefully, listen deeply, think outside the box, and experiment with purpose.  Mark Moran, Director of the John Deere Technology Innovation Center, spoke about his company’s commitment to the environment, including an emphasis on using water responsibility, recycling and sustainable products, and developing technology that leverages the Internet of Things by transmitting real-time data from sensors to the cloud.   Buffy Swinehart, Senior Manager Corporate Social Responsibility, Aflac, demonstrated “My Special Aflac Duck,” an emotional support robot designed by the company specifically to comfort children in cancer treatment.  Brian Kiser, Vehicle Product Training Specialist, Toyota USA, talked about the rapid advancements by his company in the area of safety technology with the goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities. 

The conference was attended by 250 people interested in innovation, including business executives, students, faculty and NGOs.  The 3rd Annual Conference is planned for October 22nd in New York City, and will feature Jerry White, a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize, as the keynote.

About the American Innovation Index:

Aii scores and ranks the innovativeness of U.S. companies based on their customers’ experiences. The 2nd annual study was conducted in May 2019, and covers 174 firms from 21 industries, such as airlines, hotels, car rental companies, banks, TV and Internet service providers, wireless phone providers, manufacturers, retailers and utilities. The study surveyed 8,863 consumers and covered over 38,000 customer-company relationships. To date, no large scale, scientifically vetted measure of customer-perceived innovation exists in the United States.  For more information about the Aii and a full list of company rankings, visit

About Fordham University:

Fordham University offers exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition across nine schools. Fordham awards baccalaureate, graduate, and professional degrees to approximately 15,000 students. 

About the Norwegian School of Economics:

NHH Norwegian School of Economics, one of the leading business schools in Europe, launched the Norwegian Innovation Index in 2016 and partnered with Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business and Rockbridge Associates to replicate the methodology in the US.

About Rockbridge Associates, Inc.:

Rockbridge Associates, Inc. is an outcome-based market research firm that has been advising  Fortune 500s, mid-sized firms and non-profits on their innovation and marketing strategy for over two decades.


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