Fast Company: 50 Most Innovative Companies

Fast Company magazine’s annual innovation ranking has been published in the March 2011 issue. I like their rankings, even though they don’t use a quantitative methodology to derive the rankings. (Perhaps because BCG already does that for Business Week magazine). Instead, the editorial staff of the magazine collectively chooses the top 50 every year, making it highly subjective, but also entertaining and surprisingly different every year. Here are the top ten:

  1. Apple
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. Nissan (for creating the Leaf all-electric car)
  5. Groupon
  6. Google
  7. Dawning Information Industry (for building the world’s fastest supercomputer)
  8. Netflix
  9. Zynga
  10. Epocrates (instant drug reference for doctors and nurses)

The 50 Most Innovative Companies?

FastCompany magazine has just published its annual list of the 50 most innovative companies. Here are the top ten:

1.  Facebook

2 (three-way tie). Amazon, Apple, Google

5. Huawei Technologies (world’s #2 telecom equipment provider)

6. First Solar (largest solar supplier in the U.S.)

7. PG&E (California-based utility)

8. Novartis (Swiss pharma giant)

9. Walmart (World’s largest retailer)

10. HP (World’s largest tech company)

I was a bit suspicious that so many of them were the “usual suspects” of information technology companies. (This is also true of #11 through #50.) Surely, other sectors of the economy are just as innovative! I looked through the issue for the methodology used for ranking: It turns out, “It doesn’t exist” (quoting from editor Robert Safian).

I still have my 2004 issue of FastCompany where W. L. Gore was ranked #1, and it’s not even on the top 50 list this time. Did Gore really drop over 50 places in the rankings of most innovative? I don’t think so. But, I respect the fact that FastCompany is in the business to sell magazines. Yet, Business Week’s annual “most innovative” ranking uses a methodology in collaboration with Boston Consulting Group…

It’s a fun issue and sheds light on how innovative companies work; but it’s probably not the best place to go for a ranking of the most innovative companies. However, as editor Safian points out, there isn’t a widely accepted set of criteria for objectively creating such a ranking. I have several previous blog posts about new attempts to develop a better measure, such as this one.