Every economic downturn comes with the same refrain: The world, we’re told, is losing its creative capacity, hurting our chances for a speedy recovery.

Yet inevitably, when worries about innovation erosion surface, some company rises up with a great new product, technology, or service to prove the naysayers wrong. And all too often, observers simply fail to pay attention to the many companies that make successful innovation part of their regular practice — indeed, their operating model — in ways that don’t necessarily make big headlines.

Those companies are the quiet stars of our annual Global Innovation 1000 study of R&D spending. As our study has consistently shown over the past eight years, there is no long-term correlation between the amount of money a company spends on its innovation efforts and its overall financial performance (see box below); instead, what matters is how companies use that money and other…

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