One of the biggest challenges of product innovation is creating an element of surprise. What does this mean? As consumers, we tend to gravitate towards products or services that fulfill a need, whether we realize that need or not. The most impacted I’ve been by a new product was an instance where I wasn’t consciously aware of the need. Now that I have it, however, it’s something that I can’t live without!

Every now and then I still get surprised, and you’ll hear me say, “Wow! Now that was a great idea!” I reserve that compliment for ideas that are outside the norm. Here are just a few of my favorite companies of 2016 that are turning cool ideas into some surprisingly innovative products and services.

Here are the top 3 innovative companies of 2016.

1. Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands has developed an online logo creator that allows you to create completely unique and customized brands, logos, and business documents. In its short life, the company’s website has amassed 600,000 users and created more than 20 million designs.

Large companies spend a significant amount of time and money creating and updating their corporate identities. This is a noble exercise if you have the time and money. Not all companies have those resources, which is what makes this service so valuable.

Tailor Brands has combined an opaque consulting capability with custom software to offer an important and cost effective service to the masses. I tried it, and before I knew it, I had spent $200 trying out options for client brands and ended up with some very cool options!

No matter what you do, there is something special and unique about you and your company. Tailor Brands gives you the affordable tools to express your company’s brand and begin making an impression on your core audience.

2. Valvora

Valvora is an entrepreneurial initiative started by Union Pacific, which is over 150 years old, to sell internally developed technology outside of the rail industry. With a Software-as-a-Service(SaaS) platform, a small team and a lean approach, the company has launched four products: App Station, Innovation Station, PTC Prime, and TecHub.

To me, Valvora exemplifies that innovation isn’t about the business you’re in or what your core products and services are. It’s a mindset. Innovation is competitive firepower available to anyone with the vision and the onions to think and act differently.

Union Pacific didn’t change their focus as a company when they saw new market opportunities. They didn’t give up on the core business or try to change their customers. Instead, they created a small, smart, aggressive team and gave them permission to break “the rules.” As a result, Valvora is developing new revenue “flywheels” that are creating completely new and different value.

3. Jellyvision

Jellyvision is a unique tech company that combines behavioral science and software to help people simplify some of life’s most confusing and important decisions. Jellyvision has created an online solution called ALEX that is used by more than 550 companies nationwide, which helps individuals make decisions on such things as health and life insurance, personal finances, and retirement savings.

While technology is a large part of Jellyvision’s business strategy, their innovation comes into play in the way that they’ve integrated some other established disciplines to help individuals who wrestle with some of the most complex financial choices of their lives. The company took a mundane and necessary task and used fresh ideas and technology to create new value.

You might not be looking to reinvent your business, but we can all learn from the ways that Jellyvision transformed existing user pain and frustration into a business opportunity. Are their frustrations your customers experience every day? Can you re-imagine and re-combine your products and services into new solutions for them and a real opportunity for your business?

While these three companies probably didn’t create major shifts in the world this past year, they were successful in fulfilling a real need, sometimes one that customers weren’t aware that they had.

We are always looking for companies that push the envelope. If you have some companies or products that have shocked you with their innovation, contact us!

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