An artificial heart and its lightweight power drive. A better airline for Brazil. Chocolate from Madagascar and a soccer shirt made of plastic water bottles. A fashion leader escaping its pattern, a smelter, and that little coupon startup in Chicago that’s suddenly worth billions. All this from one simple word: innovation.
The 50 companies on our 2011 list have chosen a unique path. Today’s business landscape is littered with heritage companies whose CEOs battle their industry’s broken model with inertia, layoffs, lawsuits — anything that squeezes pennies and delays the inevitable. How many of these companies will be dominant in 2025? Few.
That world will be ruled by the kinds of companies on this list. They’re nondogmatic, willing to scrap conventional ideas. (A mere 30-second TV ad? Let’s do 200 online videos in two days, say the creatives at Wieden+Kennedy.) They’re willing to fail. (Google’s search team runs up to 200 experiments at any one time.) They know what they stand for. (By making home-viewing as easy as possible, Netflix walloped Blockbuster, which thought its business had something to do with stores.)
This is a list full of surprises, even though our No. 1 pick is no surprise at all. Apple itself was once written off; but the company restored innovation to its proper place, and as you’ll see when you open the gatefold to the right, our entire economy has benefited as a result.