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Announcing Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators 2022

This year’s varied list is full of surprises.

Announcing Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators 2022
[Photo: Constantine Johnny/Moment/Getty Images]

This story is part of Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators 2022. Explore the full list of companies that are leading incubators of internal innovation talent.

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If hunting and gathering represent the two original human ventures, keeping inventory naturally followed. Maybe this explains our fascination with lists. We like to count. To keep track. To rank. It seems to scratch some primordial itch. Best doctors. Greatest blues singers. Best short stories. And best workplaces.

There is no shortage of lists of best workplaces being published these days, but what differentiates the one Fast Company has been producing since 2019 is that this list focuses on identifying companies committed to cultivating creative thinking not just in the upper echelons but across the entire enterprise. When competition for talent is more intense than ever, which workplaces offer gifted prospective employees what may be the ultimate job-related perk: the opportunity to innovate?

In the four years since Fast Company began publishing our annual list of Best Workplaces for Innovators, applications have grown from about 300 to nearly 1,600. But even more remarkable than this growth is the amazing variety of the ranking from year to year. Only one company has appeared on the list all four years (the German industrial manufacturer Siemens). Nine companies have appeared on the list three times, 27 have appeared twice, and only one (Boston Scientific) has cracked the top 10 two times.

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What accounts for this variety? Partly, it’s a reflection of changing global circumstances. The early evolution of Best Workplaces for Innovators coincided with the emergence of COVID-19, and last year it seemed 99% of the applications were focused on pandemic response, while this year’s applicants tended to describe how they are adopting new strategies to engage an increasingly—and perhaps permanently—distributed workforce.

But the other explanation for Best Workplaces for Innovator’s year-over-year variety is just the nature of this particular application process. We use a two-part methodology in assessing applicants. Our research partner, Accenture, focuses on publicly available information to assess each company and generate a score that is then combined with the score that a Fast Company editor has applied to each application.

In essence, then, the Best Workplaces for Innovators application is largely an essay exam, and it favors companies that provide the most compelling description of their efforts to create an effective internal innovation infrastructure. How broad are those efforts? How much has the company invested in them? What fruit have they borne? The companies that earn highest marks from our judges offer something more than corporate jargon or flowery marketing copy: They point to specific initiatives and concrete examples, backed by statistics on investment and metrics measuring results.

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The final ranking always offers surprises, an intriguing mix of companies renowned for their innovation (hello Google; howdy Genentech) rubbing shoulders with legacy businesses like Milwaukee Tool or WCCO Belting. This year’s list includes companies of every size, from tiny startups to global conglomerates. They span industries and operate out of 13 different countries. What they share in common is a demonstrable commitment to identifying and developing great ideas, wherever they emerge.

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About the author

Jay Woodruff is a senior editor at Fast Company. After helping launch the quarterly DoubleTake, he joined Esquire and later held senior editorial positions at Entertainment Weekly and oversaw digital at Maxim, Blender and Stuff

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