It has always been difficult to choose the companies that are on the right side of the great technology divide. This was illustrated about 20 years ago: Apple teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, while Eastman Kodak (KODK) - Get Report reached the highest share value in its storied history (just over $80 a share) and stood in the pantheon of American capitalism as a Dow component stock.
Today the tables are turned as once-venerable Eastman Kodak teeters and Apple is one the most valuable companies on the planet (by market capitalization). The fates of these companies rested on a single factor: innovation.
For investors, the single most important fact to understand is that innovation is not the sole province of technology companies. In fact, the application of innovation among lower (or even no tech companies) can lead to superior returns.
Here are four boring-but-innovative companies to look to for gains: Intel (INTC) - Get Report , Bristol Meyers Squibb (BMY) - Get Report , Ford Motor Company (F) - Get Report and Raytheon Company (RTN) - Get Report .
These four companies gain market share not by cutting costs, but by offering a better more compelling product than their competition.
Ford has stunned many by investing billions to retool its assembly lines to produce the aluminum bodied F-150 truck. In a less press-covered event, Bristol Meyers Squibb's nivolumab has become the first PD-1 compound (translation: an inhibitor which help treat advanced melanoma) to receive "Promising Innovative Medicine" status from the U.K.'s medical regulatory body, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA.
These companies adapt their strategies to different markets and different economic environments, often choosing flexibility over efficiency. Intel has ridden data center and PC Sales to record 2014 revenue. Raytheon's latest radar system (dubbed AESA) has soared in testing and extended the relevance of F/A-18C/D Hornet fighter/attack jets by extending their detection ranges, allowing simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities and offering reliable, high-resolution "synthetic aperture radar" aka SAR mapping.
These companies are restless. Management is always striving to come up with better, newer products. Seek them out in whatever business they're in -- technically technology or not -- and you're well on your way to choosing a leader which will emerge on the positive side of the technology divide.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held positions in AAPL and INTC.