Executives Name Greatest Innovations & Innovators of Past 75 Years

Indicating a strong affinity to innovators in technology and tech leaders, more than half of 500 senior-level business executives named the personal computer (56 percent) and the Internet (51 percent) as the greatest innovations of the past 75 years, according to a recent survey conducted by BusinessWeek Research Services.

Bill Gates (50 percent) and Steve Jobs (47 percent) were viewed as the most innovative CEOs. The survey, which addressed innovation in business and leadership in celebration of BusinessWeek's 75th anniversary, also revealed the companies, entrepreneurs, personalities and political figures considered to be markedly innovative.

When asked what they considered to be among the greatest innovations, 49 percent of business executives named the discovery of DNA, after the personal computer and the Internet. Comparatively, 34 percent of respondents named the television, and more than a quarter named the polio vaccine, while only one percent cited the hybrid automobile and two percent said cloning.

The Tech Effect

Most survey respondents identified the most innovative CEOs as leaders of technology companies. In addition to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, top choices for CEOs whom respondents considered the most innovative are Michael Dell and Jeff Bezos (each named by 1 in 3 of those surveyed). eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman was chosen by 28 percent of respondents. Although Bill Gates topped the list of innovative CEO, his company, Microsoft, fell short to Steve Jobs' Apple as the most innovative company (32 percent and 35 percent, respectively). Pixar, where Jobs is also president, came in a close third at 31 percent.

Innovation and Politics: Warren Buffet for President?

Given the peak political season, respondents were asked which government leaders and political figures are considered leaders of innovation. Executives who participated in the survey named Mahatma Ghandi (56 percent), Martin Luther King, Jr. (45 percent) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (42 percent) as the most innovative.

When asked which business leader would most likely get their vote for president, nearly 60 percent named Warren Buffet, followed by Jack Welch (42 percent), Lou Gerstner (32 percent) and Bill Gates (29 percent). When asked which U.S. Presidents/political figures would make the most effective business executive, more than 60 percent of respondents named former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, followed by Alan Greenspan (53 percent) and Bill Clinton (34 percent).

Boldface Innovators

More than half (52 percent) of business executives consider Henry Ford to be the most innovative entrepreneur, followed by Sam Walton (48 percent) and Walt Disney (41 percent).

Donald Trump was the least popular among survey respondents, only favored by five percent.

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed named Steven Spielberg as the most innovative from a list of esteemed personalities and individuals. Remarkably, 55 percent favored Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, over more celebrated names such as Madonna and Oprah Winfrey. Thirty-nine percent selected Pablo Picasso to be among supremely innovative individuals.

Potential Threats to Future U.S. Innovation

When asked what they considered to be the greatest barriers or threats to future U.S. innovation, executives cited reduced R&D spending (46 percent), the public education system (45 percent) and corporate bureaucracy (36 percent).

The online survey of 500 male and female adults (18-years old and over) was conducted by BusinessWeek Research Services between July 6-19, 2004. The survey also queried executives on dream jobs and career perspectives (results available separately).

BusinessWeek will publish a 75th anniversary worldwide issue on Innovation in October, (issue date: October 11; available on newsstands October 1), which will explore innovations in key areas and take a look at innovation as the driver of the global economy.

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