Fast Company magazine has released its 2009 "Fast 50" list of The World's Most Innovative Companies. The only architecture firm included in this year's "Fast 50" is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) of New York City, listed at number 32. Fast Company selected companies that "illustrate the power and potential of innovative ideas and creative execution ... the kind of enterprises that will redefine our future and point the way to a better tomorrow."

"Seven years ago, all SOM's partners made a conscious decision to make innovation our primary focus," says Gary Haney, a design partner at SOM. "We decided that was going to be our distinguishing factor. In many ways we feel like this [recognition] is a result of that decision we made. And we're very happy and proud to be recognized." The firm decided to take a two-pronged approach: design innovation and technological innovation. SOM's partners focused on developing and implementing smart computer programs, such as Dassault Systemes' CATIA multiplatform CAD/CAM/CAE software, and building information modeling. In 2008, SOM launched the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The firm also developed an independently juried, internal design journal to publish innovative, yet unbuilt, designs. "This has been a fabulous shot in the arm for us. It's hard to critique yourself or your partners. But if you get an outsider—academics in particular—you get a clear voice about the direction you're pursuing. [SOM's] Studio leaders all compete to get chosen and published in the journal," Haney says.

SOM is listed among other design-oriented firms, including Nike and Lego. Fast Company's online coverage includes a slideshow of five examples of SOM's work internationally (click here). The architecture, engineering, interior design, and urban planning firm also leads Fast 50's 2009 "Top 10 Most Innovative Companies by Category" list of the most innovative architecture firms, which includes Herzog & de Meuron, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas' OMA, Steven Holl, Foster + Partners, Renzo Piano, Christian de Portzamparc, KieranTimberlake, and Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen (click here).

To view the complete "Fast 50" list, click here.