Microsoft gaining on Apple in innovation, study claims

Technically Incorrect: A recent study suggests Microsoft's work environment is becoming more innovative and is approaching that of Apple. One of the least innovative tech environments? Facebook.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Does he run a company full of rising innovators?

Claudia Cruz/CNET

Some words act as the most glorious badge of honor.

Claim to be sensitive or intuitive and you're automatically raised to a higher echelon of being.

Claim to be innovative and doors swing open, heads bow and money is cast toward you in large bundles.

How do you define that innovative spirit, though? Is it like pornography? You just know it when you see it?

A company called Good & Co believes it knows. And it believes that Microsoft's employees are catching up in this area to Apple's.

A bold statement, you might think. Apple has always claimed to be the apogee of all things groundbreaking and magical.

Good & Co demurs. In a study released last week, it says that Microsoft's employees "are significantly more innovative than many assume, and on par with tech giants such as Apple and Facebook."

Who is Good & Co to say this? Well, it claims to be "a self-discovery platform and network for a new generation of professionals looking for more meaning in their careers."

To translate: it's got an algorithm that helps you understand who and what you are professionally and directs you to your perfect job.

In this study, the company says it examined data from 4,364 of its app users. It looked at their psychometric numbers and came up with some draconian declarations.

Sample: "Avoid working for Facebook if you want to work at a tech company that values creativity."

Oh, but doesn't Mark Zuckerberg strike you as a contemporary artist of the highest order? Doesn't his very being -- as well as his site -- project a post-Banksy aura of living art?

Neither Facebook, Apple nor Microsoft responded to a request for comment.

The study measures creativity and innovation according to personality traits such as intellectual curiosity and adventurousness.

Where Microsoft is beginning to succeed, the authors say, is in surprising areas.

"The creators of Microsoft Office had an almost identical score to Apple in regards to employee adventurousness," says the report.

At heart, Good & Co says, it found that Microsoft "proved to put a focus on hiring adventurous candidates."

But the company still has some way to go.

One of the study's authors, Dr. Kerry Schofield, told me: "Microsoft is not as low on innovation as is often claimed, and shows signs of developing a more innovative culture."

"Microsoft employees are no less adventurous than Apple employees," she said. "Overall, on our zero-100 scale Microsoft scores less than 1 point lower than Apple on adventurousness."

The pedantic might murmur that Microsoft's finest still, therefore, have a tiny bit of ground to cover.

You, though, might wonder whether all this alleged new adventurousness has led to better Microsoft products. Perhaps it has.

Should you be an iPerson, however, Good & Co offered a morsel of comfort: "Apple employees seem to surpass Microsoft on a number of traits vital for success."

What could some of these traits for success be?

Two of them are "intellectual curiosity" and "attention to detail."

Things may be changing, however, as more women become influential.

"Apple managers and other employees score higher on [intellectual] curiosity than Microsoft's," Schofield told me. "Further analysis found that this holds true mainly for male employees only. For women, there is only a marginal difference."

If this study is performed again in a few months' time and the next iPhone is, as some fear, a disappointment, might Microsoft suddenly be thought of as the most innovative tech company of all?

The world turns in fickle ways.