My grandfather used to paint. He wasn't particularly good at it, but he found it calming. He would also make collages with found objects. I look at his work sometimes and try to figure out the stories he was trying to tell (he's been gone for 35 years). I see something different every time.
My grandfather wasn't an artist. He had a dressmaking business. If you looked at him, you wouldn't have guessed he was a creative person. He was conservative in his bearing, his style. But he did design most of the clothing his firm produced.
That's the way creativity is: plainly obvious or visible only from the right vantage point. This month's special package on the 100 Most Creative People in Business offers our own, idiosyncratic perspective. The assignment I gave our editorial team was tricky. Anyone highlighted in last year's Most Creative People list was automatically excluded. So were people who've been featured in the magazine before. Those restrictions cut out both Steve Jobs and his chief designer at Apple, Jonathan Ive. They cut out singer John Legend and actor Ashton Kutcher, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales, architects Zaha Hadid and Santiago Calatrava, ad creatives Alex Bogusky and David Droga. The rules excluded hundreds and hundreds of creative businesspeople whom Fast Company has written about in the past.
But the exciting part of this project — the creative part — is just how many new candidates we were able to find. And how hard it was, in the end, to cull our list to just 100. I can attest to my grandfather: Creativity is alive and well in 2010.
We feel the selections we've made appropriately reflect the breadth of new ideas and new pursuits at play in our business landscape. We've singled out technologists like our cover subject, Soraya Darabi (who dragged The New York Times "into Facebook and Twitter and all the social media," as Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tells us), and interface designer Yugo Nakamura (who constructs cutting-edge multimedia Web sites); culturists like filmmaker Jesse Dylan (whose oeuvre spans music videos, feature films, and cause-focused shorts) and HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins (whose projects have earned 21 Oscars); and iconoclasts like Timbuktu Media's Dele Olojede (who is bringing independent news reporting to Nigeria) and futurist Ray Kurzweil (whose Singularity University is training entrepreneurs to focus on the "major challenges of humanity").
I'm not sure my grandfather would have appreciated all the people in our list this year; maybe you won't agree with us either. He certainly wouldn't have cared for our No. 1, Lady Gaga. (He was an opera fan.) On the other hand, he would have gotten a kick out of her outfits.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.