A T-shirt business hardly sounds revolutionary. But Threadless is no ordinary company. "A lot of companies are doing little things with user innovation, but Threadless has built a company around the idea of creating products that are designed by users," says staff writer Max Chafkin. After he saw the Threadless office -- decked out with a full-size Airstream trailer and video game consoles, he says, "I thought I was going to get to play Halo with them and race the go-carts, but it's clearly also a serious company."

Who knows more about innovation than innovation firms? "All they do is help people come up with ideas, think of things that haven't been thought about before," says editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan, who asks the CEOs of some of these firms to divulge their secrets in "How the Creative Stay Creative." Elsewhere in this issue, Buchanan writes about a CEO who had to prepare his staff to function without him while he was deployed to the Middle East (When Absence Makes the Team Grow Stronger).

Andrew Eccles has photographed George and Laura Bush on the White House lawn for the cover of Newsweek. He shot Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson for the cover of New York. But photographing nanomaterials for The Outer Limits left him a little perplexed: Some of the products won't hit the market for 10 years. As a result, he says, "the photo shoot was done with complete poetic license." Eccles, named one of the 100 most important people in the industry by American Photo magazine, is putting the finishing touches on Ailey Ascending, his book of images of the Alvin Ailey dance troupe. The book is due out this fall.

Last December, Nobel Prize -- winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz predicted that the U.S. would soon face stagflation -- that apparently contradictory mix of high prices and slow growth. As recent headlines attest, he was right. In Guest Speaker, Stiglitz advises entrepreneurs on how to shepherd their companies through stagflationary times. Stiglitz has been chief economist for the World Bank and economic adviser to President Clinton.

For our innovation issue, contributing editor David H. Freedman looked into the bleeding edge of technology (The Outer Limits): brain-enhancing pills and video games that move based on your thoughts. It's terrain he first covered in his 1995 book, Brainmakers. "Some of the technology really was science fiction when I was a kid," says Freedman. He is at work on a book about why experts are usually wrong. "My main goal," he says, "is to make myself look like a fool."