If you Google the phrase "faith-based businesses," the results point to companies that pursue a religious agenda. But there's another kind of faith in business: the belief that a product or service can radically remake an industry, change consumer habits, challenge economic assumptions. Proof for such innovative leaps is thin, payoffs are long in coming (if they come at all), and doubting Thomases abound. Today, pundits fret about an innovation bubble. Some overvalued companies and overhyped inventions will eventually tumble and money will be lost. Yet breakthrough progress often requires wide-eyed hope.
In this special report on the World's Most Innovative Companies, there are plenty of examples to make you a believer ("I've never been more excited about the possibilities ahead of us," Nike CEO Mark Parker recently told me). Our staff has spent more than six months gathering and analyzing data. To generate our list of the 50 Most Innovative Companies—and the accompanying top 10 companies in various sectors—we assessed thousands of enterprises. From all that work, I've pulled out 12 rising trends. Risk of failure and collapse are always with us. But the culture of innovation across the globe is more robust than ever. We think that's worth celebrating.
Continue scrolling to see this year's complete list.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.