Tag Archives: Fast Company


This week, the publication Fast Company released its annual survey it calls the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in the world.

Here is the top 10:

#1 Facebook

#2 Amazon

#3 Apple

#4 Google

#5 Huawei

#6 First Solar

#7 PG&E

#8 Novartis

#9 Walmart

#10 HP

That’s just the Top 10.  Disney is #20.  Cisco (#17) and Twitter (#50) are on the Top 50 too.  So is Grey New York (#24), the advertising genius that makes the commercials with the E-Trade baby.  Nike (#13) , Netflix (#12), and the Indian Premier League that televises international cricket matches(#22)– all on the list.

So how do you get on the list?  Fast Company says:

Even in these tough times, surprising and extraordinary efforts are under way in businesses across the globe. From politics to technology, energy, and transportation; from marketing to retail, health care, and design, each company on the list illustrates the power and potential of innovative ideas and creative execution.

There you have it.  Innovative ideas and creative execution.

I noticed that El Milagro was not on the list.  I noticed, in fact, that there are no schools on the list.  Not the KIPP schools or High Tech High or Kaplan University.  In fact, I noticed “education” wasn’t even mentioned in the quote above.  Education is rarely mentioned in the same breath as “innovation”.

Politics… technology… energy… transportation… marketing… retail… health care… design… that is where Fast Company goes for examples of innovative organizations.  And rightly so.

This past week there were protests across the state of California and around the nation to shine the light on inevitable  budget cuts in schools.  I stood on the lawn of the capital building in Sacramento and watched.  There was a rabble of a couple thousand activists with hand made placards and signs and hippies playing percussion instruments trying to resurrect some of the energy of the 60’s.  Good luck.  I assumed that many in the crowd were educators who had called in for a sub in order to be out on the lawn protesting about the loss of funding to public education.  $100 per sub.

In the comments section of the Fast Company blog on their 50 Most Innovative Companies I was struck by this quote:

“In times of economic crisis, chaos, and rising strains on system designs, innovative organizations have the edge.”

And this one:

“Changes create movement. Movement create action. Action creates Innovation.”

And finally… this one:

“Innovation is not the result but the way we act. The result is a consequence of our acts. If you keep doing it the same way, we will get always the same results. The companies that are shaping and will shape the future are the ones that are not afraid to try different things, different actions. Those actions are the ones that will shape our future.”

Instead of innovating, the rabble was chanting on the Capitol lawn while the governor was off speaking to the Charter Schools Conference.  But no worries. Even though he missed their presentation, he can pick it up on Hulu (#11) and enjoy it at his leisure… maybe over a bowl of Fritos (#28).

For our own part, at El Milagro we are going to navigate through the crisis and get on next year’s list of the Top 50 Most Innovative Organizations.

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Filed under California budget, El Milagro, innovation and change, public education


I started reading the publication “Fast Company” when my wife brought it home from a business trip 7 or 8 years ago.  She is an executive at Intuit (Quick Books, Turbo Tax, Quicken, etc.) and someone gave her a copy because Intuit was featured in an article that particular month.  “Fast Company” refers to organizations that are agile– that are quick to adjust to new and ever-shifting market realities.  These places change and thrive and grow and make their employees and customers and communities better.  They are FAST.  Like Intuit. And you have to hustle if you want to stay up with them.  

So I decided I wanted to stay up with them.

I decided it would be good for a modestly performing charter school in Chula Vista, California to aspire to be “fast”.    So now I read “Fast Company” and learn about organizational development through their consistent themes of innovation, change, community building, collaboration and leadership  (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/archives/2008).

There are more similarities than differences between a non-profit, public, charter school and a behemoth for-profit software developer.   At least when it comes to organizational excellence.  

Somewhere I gathered this list of “25 Insights on Leadership” and stored it for an occasion just such as this. Whether you are the principal of a charter school, or the CEO of a company that makes jet ski engines, or the Captain of a US Navy ship, or the director of a health clinic, or the president of your senior class, or a battalion chief out preventing Big Sur from burning to the ground, or the king of some obscenely wealthy oil kingdom… you can learn from the collective wisdom contained in these…


1. Audit Your Company Cultures. “Companies don’t have one culture. They have as many as they have supervisors or managers. You want to build a strong culture? Hold every manager accountable for the culture that he or she builds.” Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

2. Informed People Don’t Fear Change.  “People are not afraid of change. They fear the unknown.”Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

3. Beware “Aspirational Accounting”.  “Enron has changed things significantly. You used to be able to buy a company, account for it in bizarre ways, and make money on the sale. That world is over.” Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

4. Empower Your People — Turn Them Loose.  “Freedom is the greatest when the ground rules are clear. Chalk out the playing field and say, Within those lines, make any decisions you need.” Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

5. Prevent Erosion of Human Assets.  “We are systematically depreciating our human capital. For most people, the first year with the company is the best. It’s downhill from there.” Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

6. Be Generous With What You Know. “Knowledge sharing is the basis of everything. Share knowledge with reckless abandon.”Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer at Yahoo

7. Expand Your Roster.  “Think of your team as not just the people you pay, but as the people who pay you as well.” Feargal Quinn, executive chairman of Superquinn

8. Don’t Judge a Man by the Size of His Wallet.  “The only thing wrong with poor people is that they don’t have any money. That’s a curable condition.” Bill Strickland, president and CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Bidwell Training Center

 9. Harness Your Skills for Good.  “Technology has enormous potential to facilitate public-health problem solving. Marcus Welby needs you guys.” Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and cofounder of the Children’s Health Fund and president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

10. Groom Your People for Success.  “Weakness fixing might prevent failure, but strength building leads to excellence. Focus on strength, and manage around weaknesses.”Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

 11. Promote Brand Awareness Throughout Your Enterprise.  “Everybody throughout the enterprise should know what the brand can and cannot do. There’s an imperative for education.”–Jim Goodwin, vice president of marketing at the Absolut Spirits Co.

12. Embrace Imperfection — Fast!.  “Beware of perfect people. They will never propel your enterprise to greatness. They’re too cautious. You’ve got to be fast to be good.”Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

13. Don’t Let the Venture Capitalists Get You Down.  “Revolutionary change is where real value is created. Don’t assume the capital markets know what the hell they’re doing. The VC market is currently in more disarray than most companies.” Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

14. Allow Yourself to Dream.  “Dreams are maps. The ability to think about the future is what drives us all to attain.”Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and cofounder of the Children’s Health Fund and president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

15. Increase Your Net Worth.  “Networking is sharing your contacts with others to create value without the expectation of compensation. Your network is your net worth.”Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer at Yahoo

16. Use Every Teachable Moment.  “Every time you give somebody compensation, it’s a great time to give feedback.”Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

17. Shine Some Hope.  “If you want to work with people who have no hope, you have to look like the solution and not the problem.”Bill Strickland, president and CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Bidwell Training Center

18. Set a New Standard of Performance.  “We need to get beyond the single bottom line and measure a company’s performance by a triple bottom line. Financial profits alone aren’t enough. The results also need to be good for people and for the environment.” Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream

19. Laugh at Yourself.  “Just when you think the sun shines out of your butt, all you have is an illuminated landing area.” Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

20. Get Up, Stand Up.  “YCDBSOYA: You can’t do business sitting on your armchair.” Feargal Quinn, executive chairman of Superquinn

21. Stop Whining — Start Seeking.  “In these times, it’s important to find the opportunities in the disruptions rather than just to lament the change.” Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks Inc.

22. Leaders: Move It or Lose It.  “Managers consistently delude themselves about how much good they’re doing. The oath for managers should be the same as physicians: First do no harm. ” Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University

23. Be Honest.  “The same thing you want from management is what customers want from you: honest communication. Be honest with your customers; tell them everything you know.”Bonnie Reitz, vice president of sales and distribution at Continental Airlines

24. Don’t Stretch This Rule.  “When you start thinking about growing your brand, be sure not to ignore the Spandex rule: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream

25. What’s Your Bottom Line?.  “People over 65 were asked, ‘If you could live your life over, what would you do differently?’ They said three things: ‘I’d take time to stop and ask the big questions. I’d be more courageous and take more risks in work and love. I’d try to live with purpose — to make a difference.’ You don’t have to be an elder to ask, What’s my own bottom line?”Richard Leider, founding partner of the Inventure Group

So these are the rules. It’s how you get fast.  Growing “El Milagro” depends on learning lessons far away from school. 


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