It’s never been just about creativity.
Since its inception in 2009, Fast Company’s annual review of the Most Creative People in Business has featured plenty of entertainers, writers, designers, and other artistic individuals who have channeled their imagination into successful enterprises. But at the heart of this franchise are scientists, engineers, and executives who deploy creativity and innovation to address some of the biggest challenges facing business and society.
Computer scientist, activist, and artist Joy Buolamwini—her biography calls her a “poet of code”—is exactly the kind of left-brain-meets-right-brain leader our Most Creative People initiative loves to celebrate. Buolamwini, through her research at MIT Media Lab, has revealed the potential harms and biases of facial recognition software. She has shared her findings through traditional means, such as publishing peer-reviewed papers and op-ed pieces; she has also presented her research in the form of poems and within a new documentary film. Buolamwini’s mix of rigor and creativity has paid off: Earlier this year, Amazon and Microsoft said they would pause or halt police use of their facial recognition technology, and IBM committed to getting out of the business altogether. At a time when business leaders and lawmakers are under pressure to eradicate systemic injustice and bias, Buolamwini’s work has never felt more urgent, and her approach—grounded in science and accessible to the masses—offers a blueprint for changing the status quo.
Elsewhere in this lively package of profiles, meticulously curated by editorial director Jill Bernstein and associate editor Lara Sorokanich, you’ll meet the quiet forces behind earthshaking innovations—Lauren Gardner, creator of Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard, for example—and you’ll encounter big names blazing unexpected trails. I loved learning about musician David Byrne‘s foray into feel-good journalism, and I hope you will, too.
For readers who love lists, this issue is a bonanza. For the second year, Fast Company is publishing its analysis of the Best Workplaces for Innovators, a ranking of 100 companies that have created cultures where workers at all levels are empowered to try new things and effect change at their businesses and beyond. This year, we’re also recognizing a handful of innovative teams—groups of employees, nominated by their companies, that took advantage of a pro-innovation environment to build or develop something extraordinary. Our team of the year, the pandemic response team at biotech firm AbCellera, used machine learning to accelerate drug discovery. It is timely, critical work that marries technology and, crucially, human ingenuity. Fast Company’s approach to business journalism has always been about creativity—and the people courageous enough to bring it into play.