Top 10 Lists
Our ranking of innovative companies in the March issue elicited a flood of opinions. "Google is not innovative with regard to Web 2.0," insisted one of our Web correspondents. "Twitter is where innovation is at full speed." For more, go to FastCompany.com and read on.
Fast Company 50
Loosely defined, Team Obama might indeed be considered a business ("Fast Company 50: The World's Most Innovative Companies," March), but to rate it ahead of Google, Facebook, Cisco, and the like for innovation staggers my mind. As a consultant, I deal with firms behind true innovative technologies on a daily basis. Using blogs and instant messaging for politics might have been novel, but the applications Team Obama used were hardly unusual and certainly not innovative. Ranking Team Obama at the top of the Fast Company 50 was an insult to the 49 real businesses on your list.
Team Obama is the most innovative "company," eh? Sure, it used "effective digital initiatives" to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency, but without Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals as a blueprint, the digital tools it used would have produced an also-ran.
Creighton C. Bildstein
Greenwood Village, Colorado
Why was Zappos on your 50 Most Innovative Companies list? Regardless of the wonderful things it claims to do, it sells shoes at full retail price. It takes minimal effort to find shoes cheaper and with free delivery.
I smiled when I read the Letter From the Editor in the March issue of Fast Company ("One Hundred Fifty-Nine Reasons to Cheer"): "We've tried to make this issue as upbeat and bursting with potential as we can." It seems to me that negative media and mass pessimism have only fueled the current economic downturn. Be positive. It's the new innovative.
I was so pleased to read your letter in which you refused to sing along with the doomsday-economy crowd. Personally, I feel that it is a very exciting time. If I had a nickel for every person who cringed after I explained that I just launched a creative-development and content-production company — well, I assume you know the answer to that.
People seem to be too focused on how bad things are (or may get) rather than on being proactive about how they can adapt to this change — which is all this really is, right?
New York, New York
Nancy Lublin's comment (Do Something, March) on cause marketing by companies was provocative yet maybe a bit alarmist. Yes, there are those corporations that have taken this approach du jour and are using it to sell their wares. But don't fret: As soon as the return and payoff fade away (or another ad firm gets the account), the next new killer ad will be in full swing, and the not-for-profit crowd will be able to relax once more. That said, Lublin's concern about corporations somehow muscling in, as it might seem, on nonprofits' typical territory is just an example of what makes business and free enterprise so exciting and valuable: It catalyzes com-petition, increasing creativity, bolder ingenuity, and resourcefulness.
The Cost of Clean Coal
Anyone who can flippantly say that an additional cost of 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour is manageable doesn't understand the energy industry (Green Business, March). A typical kilowatt-hour costs a customer 8 to 10 cents. A 3- to 4-cent increase in energy is upward of a 30% to 50% increase in electrical-energy costs. Prices such as those would cripple our economy.
Berlin, New Jersey
Columnist Melanie Warner responds:
That 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour would add 30% to 50% to consumer energy costs only in the few places where utilities get close to 100% of their energy from coal. Elsewhere, the boost would be considerably lower. Either way, it's likely the federal government will step in to offset some of the costs. The coal industry will certainly be pushing for that.
Trickle-up must become a torrent in the clean-tech industry if we are to make measurable change in the types of energy that power this and other nations ("As the World Turns," March). It took about 20 years for TVs to reach mass-market penetration, 50 for the phone, and 15 for the Internet. With clean tech and renewable energy, we have 10 years, period. The energy industry must change from its focus on a centralized system of large-scale plants to a distributed system of community-scale plants.
A New Wireless Age?
Electromagnetic radiation to transfer useful amounts of energy? Hmm. The claim in the article ("Brilliant," February) about inductive chargers is 80% to 90% efficiency? On what planet? You have a surface coil (the surface you are placing the gadgets on) running 24/7 and charging things a few hours a week. The rest of the time, it's heating the room. I would be quite surprised if it reaches 30% while the gadgets are on it. As far as noncontact systems go, to get any range (even a few inches) requires changing the power into higher-frequency power so it can be received by practical-size antennae. He threw a switch and a TV came on several feet away. I flip a switch at the bottom of the stairs and the hall light comes on. Whoopee.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Writer Paul Hochman responds:
I understand Mr. Daldry's head shaking about the seeming magic of these new systems. Here are some answers. First, to his provocative and interesting question, "On what planet?" the answer, happily, is, "This one." These new wireless charging systems ensure that the primary (charging) coil is always off unless something in need of a charge is sitting on or near it. Further, thanks to integrated circuits, no charge flows to a device once it's fully charged. When the primary coil in the charging surface detects nothing nearby to charge, it uses zero electricity. It gives off no heat. It's off. I suggest Mr. Daldry try turning on a lamp that's attached to no wires. If, after he flips the switch, it lights up, he, like I did, will probably say "whoopee" without irony.
In "Om My!" (April), we inaccurately reported Chip Wilson's ownership stake in Lululemon. He is the largest shareholder in the company with a 35% stake. Also, in September and December 2008, Wilson did not sell shares; instead, in keeping with a previously established plan, he transferred shares to other founding employees in recognition of their contribution to the company. We regret the errors.
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A version of this article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.