Each year, renowned business experts Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen release their World’s Most Innovative Companies list in Forbes, revealing the firms at the cutting-edge of their industries and most likely to change the world. In their 2018 list published this week, Dyer and Gregersen name ServiceNow, Workday and Salesforce.com as the top three. What do these powerhouses have in common? They are at the vanguard of digital transformation, say Dyer and Gregersen. But more importantly, how did they get there? The answer lies in the secrets of successful leadership, and in the unique psychology of their respective chief executives.

In the Forbes profile of these three most innovative companies, Dyer and Gregersen write that mastering digital transformation is easier said than done. “Most managers and investors understand that today’s digital capabilities render the old ways of getting work done obsolete; but the gulf is huge between knowing that change must happen and knowing how to make it.” The most innovative companies are guided by visionary leaders – like ServiceNow’s John Donahoe – who shrewdly capitalizes on areas where customers face low productivity, bottlenecks and client frustration. Donahoe, whose company pioneered the use of AI and machine learning in IT services, spent his early days as CEO endlessly questioning customers about their needs. This approach made ServiceNow the most innovative company in IT – and the world – and it was employed to similar success in HR management by Workday’s Dave Duffield and Aneel Bhusri, and in sales by Salesforce’s Marc Benioff.

The characteristics that make for enterprising CEOs – and by extension innovative companies – will be the subject of Dyer’s groundbreaking book co-authored with digital transformation expert Nathan Furr, “Innovation Capital:  How to Compete – and Win – Like the World’s Most Innovative Leaders” (Harvard Business Review, Spring 2019). The book will be the first-ever culmination of in-depth interviews with the heads of the world’s most dynamic companies, including Benioff, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink), Indira Nooyi (PepsiCo), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn) and many more. In understanding these towering figures, leaders at all levels can gain greater insight into why the world’s most innovative companies succeeded in the first place.