To construct our list of the world's most innovative companies, we searched for examples of success and strength (of character as well as finances). There are lessons and inspiration in all of our Fast Company 50 and the 76 other companies included in our category-by-category top 10 lists. We as a country are paying the price for an era when financial engineering counted more than breakthrough products and services. We were deluded by ephemeral and unsustainable growth figures, lost track of our long-term priorities, and embraced the idea that size equaled safety. We were wrong.