What are the most innovative companies? Fast Company magazine has come out with its annual take on the top 50.

No need to do this David Letterman, reverse order-style. The magazine chose Nike as its Number 1 most innovative business. The company that decided athletic wear could not only be stylish and functional but serve as a platform, also pioneers new manufacturing techniques and keeps piling up the profits.

The illustration accompanying Fast Company's selection of Nike.

Don’t Let Success Crowd Out

Many companies innovate, but Nike is highlighted because it doesn't let success crowd out the next innovation. Amazon is second in Fast Company’s list, building on its innovation three years ago of same-day shipping with supportive technology acquisitions and the building of new warehouses and a distribution center.

Other selectees include Square, which wooed small businesses with its mobile credit card transaction services; real-time Big Data cruncher Splunk; Fab and its online boutiques of designer products for niches like pet lovers; and, in Kenya, Safaricom's one-on-one call service between doctors and patients.

There’s also PigNewton, performer/writer Louis C.K.’s production company, which successfully sold original shows directly to fans online. Health insurer SeeChange Health offers discounts for staying healthy, and Nest’s thermostats learn dwellers’ behavior patterns.

Some of the magazine’s choices are giant companies that have a particularly innovative venture or product, such as giant retailer Target’s urban-oriented CityTarget stores, Google’s ultra-fast fiber network in Kansas City, Coca-Cola’s use of shareable online content or Apple’s HD Retina display.

Go Big, Get Elastic

What do the companies have in common? All find their niche and then generate new angles on top, and all are generating significant revenues. Many are resourceful enough either to go big, or to get elastic -- by expanding their approach into something bigger, or stretching their initial vision until it fits a need.

Take Nike’s ability to go big, for instance. VP Hannah Jones told the magazine that even its Flyknit Racer shoes, which were based not on sensors but on a new manufacturing process, “is a platform” because the company is “reimagining the upper, the bottoms -- the whole caboodle." Innovate, then expand it in as many directions as possible.

Or Sproxil’s ability to find a problem its product could solve. The company’s coded stickers were initially intended for smartphone-equipped shoppers to verify the organic-ness of food products. But, when the demand didn’t materialize, the company looked around and found an actual problem to solve -- verifying that prescription drugs, particularly in some under-regulated countries, are actually what they claim to be.