COVER STORY PODCAST
Wow, what a year! In 2005 the business world moved to the music of innovation. There were more revolutionary changes in more markets sparked by more breakthrough ideas than at any time since, well, the golden '90s. Admit it: Despite being overworked and dog-tired, you had fun. This year we saw Google (GOOG ) and Yahoo! (YHOO ) change the paradigm in search, classifieds, publishing, e-commerce, telecom, and video. We watched with awe as Apple (AAPL ) blew apart entire distribution networks of established broadcasting and movie empires. We marveled as MySpace (NWS ) came from nowhere to commercialize the coziness of social networks (yet another invention by that key pioneering group, our own teenagers). We took notice when General Electric (GE ) embraced design, ecology, and creativity as it set out to build a new corporate culture -- and generate big profits.
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So many fascinating things happened in 2005 that picking the Best of the Best was no walk in the virtual park. And you may not agree with all our selections. But in the pages that follow -- and online -- we present our editors' choices for the Best Business Leaders, Ideas, and Products of the year. In addition to our top CEOs and managers, there are lists of the smartest business gurus (have you read the latest from Marcus Buckingham?), the best innovation coaches, the best buzzmakers, and the hottest buzzwords. The latter two are online.
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The Best Products of 2005 reflect this moment of incredible innovation. Some of you may already be familiar with the video iPod, the Kodak (EK ) EasyShare digital camera, the Xbox (MSFT ), and the awesome Pontiac (GM ) Solstice. But have you seen the Slingbox, which lets you watch your living room TV from anywhere? LandRoller skates? The Yamaha Morphous Scooter? For those who have struggled to open a pill bottle, look at the newly designed Target (TGT ) ClearRX. Prospective moms and dads should check out the Bugaboo Cameleon stroller. And for everyone there are plenty more hot products online.
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The most provocative section, however, may well be our Best Ideas. This year saw more out-of-the-box concepts that changed the competitive game than in nearly a decade. Social networking, the creative economy, post-geographic teams of employees, open-source workplaces, the consumer experience, and innovation efficiency are but some of the fresh concepts that changed the way business is done. Many of these ideas have been around for a while but reached a tipping point in 2005 as companies adopted them to leave their competitors in the dust. And we've added a few extra notions to entertain you: designer puppies, the quest for simplicity -- there's even a trend among the wealthy to scale back inheritances before they wind up complicating or even ruining their children's lives.
In the spirit of collaboration, we are also asking for your picks of the Best Business Leaders, Ideas, and Products in an online survey at www.businessweek.com/go/bestof2005. We've laid out our choices for the Best, and we're eager to hear yours.
By Bruce Nussbaum in New York