This year’s 100 Most Creative People offers our own, idiosyncratic perspective on business. The selections reflect the breadth of news ideas and new pursuits at play in our business landscape. Here we present the top 10 from list of innovators.
10. Qi Lu – President of Online Services, Bing; Microsoft
It’s hard to imagine software giant Microsoft in the role of David, but up against the search Goliath Google, the casting fits. Spurning the antiquated practice of releasing new updates every couple of years, Lu is creating an environment where live-cycle updates and product improvements are constant. Bing’s share of the search business is still only about 12%, but if anyone can turn a pebble into a deadly stone, Lu is the man.
9. James Cameron – Filmmaker, Lightstorm Entertainment
Not only did Avatar become the highest-grossing film in history (nearly $2.7 billion worldwide) — surpassing Cameron’s previous record setter, Titanic — but its visual spectacle and technical mastery also laid to rest any doubts about 3-D as a profound medium for live action and artistic ambition. When it comes to the business of Hollywood, Avatar cemented his place in the realm of the gods.
8. Hannah Jones – VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Nike
Jones says she joined Nike’s sustainability team to test whether it was “more effective to shout from the outside or work from the inside.” Her conclusion: The creative combination of both is the most potent. She has paired Nike with NASA and venture capitalists to address water shortages; with Creative Commons to launch GreenXchange, a platform for companies to share green intellectual property; and with PopTech to create an Open Collaboration Lab for scientists and engineers.
7. Chris Anderson – Curator, TED Conferences
As chief curator of TED — the Long Beach, California, conference of multidisciplinary luminaries turned viral-video phenomenon turned cultural juggernaut — the Brit has guided it into a newly global, open-source phase this year. Volunteers have translated thousands of videos into 76 languages and introduced TEDx, independently organized events that in the first year has produced an astonishing 500 gatherings in 70 countries and 35 languages.
6. Steve Burd – CEO, Safeway
Steve Burd played a crucial role in the recent health-care debate. The exec appeared repeatedly on Capitol Hill to describe the health and financial benefits of the grocery chain’s unconventional wellness program, which includes lower insurance premiums for nonunion employees who maintain healthy blood-pressure and cholesterol levels and don’t smoke. Burd insists that the company’s health-care costs rose just 2% from 2005 to 2009 compared to a nearly 40% increase for most companies. “The Safeway amendment” — a provision that increases the incentives companies can pay healthy employees — is now law.
5. Ryan Murphy – Creator and Producer, Glee
The Peabody-winning Fox series Glee, his satire about a high-school show choir, has become a ratings rock star. It’s the No. 1 show among female teens and the top new show among women 18 to 49, and more of its viewership is made up of 18- to 49-year-olds in households making $100,000-plus than any other broadcast-network show.Glee has also spawned more than 50 iTunes singles — Murphy picks all the songs himself — as well as three soundtracks and a sold-out concert tour.
4. Shiro Nakamura – Chief Creative Officer, Nissan
With the zero-emissions Leaf — which goes on sale later this year and is the first global mass-market electric car — he has tried to put his finger on the consumer pulse and make a car that will sell. “We did not want to make something very strange for just the niche buyer,” Nakamura said last year. That hews to his belief that creativity at its best isn’t about just doing whatever you want: “More designers have to understand the values of society and the people they are creating the vehicles for.”
3. Elizabeth Warren – Consumer advocate, Congressional Oversight Panel
By calling the likes of Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit on the carpet, jawboning with Jon Stewart, and pushing to create a consumer financial protection agency, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren has taken what could have been a paper-pushing position as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel on the bank bailout to the forefront of the public conversation over financial reform.
2. Eddy Cue – VP of Internet services, Apple
Steve Jobs may own the limelight, but Eddy Cue holds the key to the Apple kingdom. Cue runs arguably the most disruptive 21st-century Web businesses: iTunes and the App Store, the latter of which is poised to create a $4 billion app economy by 2012. Cue’s next campaign will be challenging Amazon’s Kindle dominance, with the Cupertino cocktail of the iPad and the iBook store.
1. Lady Gaga – Pop Artist
Gaga broke through last year as a global phenomenon, musing on “disco sticks,” channeling Madonna’s glitter-glam fashion, and cribbing shock-rock performance notes from Alice Cooper. Gaga has done something unprecedented, melding her inspirations with au courant dance pop and Web savvy to build a business empire notable for both the speed of its creation and the diversity of its platforms.