The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies / Our March cover story — and particularly our choice of fastcompany.com/group/fast-50.as the most innovative company of the year — got a heated reception. There were complaints (“Your latest issue reads like a marketing brochure”), compliments (“Once again, Fast Company has done us all a tremendous service”), and even some advice for the company on the top of the list: “By 2012, my innovation would be to have the Googleplex concentrate on running and innovating passive revenue models while the engineering and product development are done in clusters offshore.” To have your say, join the online discussion at
Gaga for Google
Maybe it’s time to get off the Google bandwagon. (And believe me, I love Google and don’t have an ax to grind.) It’s all expansion of one good idea, some smart acquisitions, and lots and lots of cool, free, unprofitable stuff that allows the old idea to make more money. That hardly makes Google the greatest innovator in America, even if Matt Glotzbach was challenged to do something he hadn’t done before or Irene Au littered the walls with Post-it Notes or Josef Desimone changes the menu on a daily basis for 17 cafés. But the single craziest thing was to list Facebook ahead of GE as an innovator. Never having worked at either place, my hypothesis is that does more innovation in one week than Facebook has done in its history, and has for a century. And when GE invents the virtual colonoscopy, it’s going to have a much greater impact on the lives of everyone than getting poked by a friend on Facebook or being able to find Pride and Prejudice for free on Google.
Eric B. Schultz
I agree that “new ideas and fresh initiatives” are some of the keys to the U.S. economy’s future growth. But when a business innovation — whether it is the latest software or product — can be mimicked or stolen within months of its release, we will have little incentive to innovate. It is imperative that we focus attention on protecting innovation. More vigorously enforcing copyright and patent laws would help, but I believe our primary concern is in other countries where we have little or no jurisdiction. Using tariffs, taxes, or diplomatic pressure, while we still have what other international markets want, could help bring balance to the situation. On the business side, additional focus on being more proactive and strategic in how we design and roll out our products and services would also be an improvement.
Jeffrey T. Halter
Taking the Next Step
Your “50 most innovative companies” treatment is a huge gift to any entrepreneur or team that wants to bring a business to its greatest potential — and then keep going. I find it especially helpful as someone who has achieved a serious innovation in a product and service. I am now ready, with my wife and partner, to take the enterprise that surrounds and supports that breakthrough work to commensurate degrees of innovative excellence. I intend to keep studying those 50 top companies for a long time to come.
I believe you left one of the world’s most innovative companies off your recent list, Chick-fil-A. While the keys to Chick-fil-A’s success are based on principles that date back thousands of years, the implementation of these principles is certainly unique to the modern-day business world. The company will add nearly 90 locations this year and will do so with cash. They may not be new, but ideas such as closing on Sunday, providing scholarship money to teenage employees, and going above and beyond to take care of customers are certainly innovative concepts in the fast-food business. It is only a matter of years before we see the Golden Arches turned off on Sunday in an attempt to match the innovation at Chick-fil-A.
Going for a Joyride?
Here’s a phrase that describes Zipcar: love-hate relationship (Zipcar Makes the Leap, March). I love getting a car from the local garage. I love reserving online and renting for only a few hours. I hate getting a car that is in serious need of cleaning or repair. I hate it even more when those problems are blamed on me because I didn’t have time to call their 800-number to report the problem — the wait time for each call can be fairly brutal.
And the worst? Getting to my Zipcar to find the air bag fully deployed and no other cars available. Their Web site could use a few tweaks, too, to make it more useful and less “omg, it’s so cute.”
New York, New York
Thanks for getting real and telling it like it is (Green Business, March)! No happy label on a toxic or wasteful product will ever change its contents. As consumers, we have the power, and the responsibility, to create our reality. And, yup, we may just have to create a new economy in the bargain. Oh well, that, as they say, is the way the cookie crumbles.
Garrison, New York
Thomas friedman is correct: The broadband Internet world is flat (In Praise of Spikes, March). If you have an idea, then implement it for yourself before someone implements it against you. Richard Florida also is correct: The flat world is a network that links clusters of people who find solutions to local issues. Some of those solutions can scale but others cannot.
If we put Friedman and Florida together, we get a perfect description of what is happening in the world today. At the global level, it is becoming flat (networked), digital (machine to machine), and virtual (ideas based). This flat world is a networked economy that does not obey nation-state governments or regulations — subprime networked debt was based on a set of financial ideas, not on a set of home mortgages. Clusters are local. They are people based, and they are increasingly wireless (24-7 connectivity), personal (providing a customized experience), and reliant on new revenue models (passive income streams). Our world is changing in remarkable ways, and there are no right or wrong descriptors for what is evolving.
Join our online panel Voice your opinion, and hear from other business leaders by joining the Fast Company Connection at fastcompanyconnection.com.