Disenchanted with the poor returns and high fees on mutual funds, some family members recently asked me to help them mold a good growth portfolio.

Today, I'm sharing with you the names of four of the 13 companies that I told them about. All 13 of the companies that I suggested have innovation in their DNA -- and I'll talk about the rest of those companies in future articles. But I believe that these four have the strongest positions in their markets and should be the cornerstones of any diversified growth portfolio.

But first: a simple, powerful thesis
I decided that a succinct thesis for them would be: "Invest first and foremost in companies that demonstrate exceptional levels of innovation, with special emphasis given to those that we believe will be around decades from now."

Below, I'll talk about the four companies and why I think they're best-in-breed picks. Stay tuned to the end, and I'll also offer you access to a special free report on a company Fool co-founder David Gardner believes could be the next rule-breaking multibagger.

Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG)
I like this company for its revolutionary robotic surgical equipment, which has produced huge growth over the years. Though MAKO Surgical also operates in the robotic surgery field, it focuses on entirely different procedures. For the time being, neither company really needs to worry about the other encroaching on their respective spaces. That means there's still plenty of time to build up impenetrable moats.

That being said, fellow Fool Alex Dumortier thinks this could be a tough year for Intuitive, especially after 2011 saw shares rise almost 80%. He may end up being right, but over the long term, I have great faith in this company's ability to change our approach to surgery in the United States and abroad.

Though the Intuitive's da Vinci robotic system focuses primarily on colonoscopies right now, there's nothing to say that it won't expand into other procedures. With a current installed base of more than 2,000 systems worldwide -- and more doctors adopting the system each quarter -- there will be continued experimentation and collaboration with da Vinci's expanded uses. That's the best kind of network effect.

I already own shares and have made a CAPScall on my profile, and I think any price below $380 -- if it ever reaches there -- would represent a great chance to get another tranche of shares.

Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFM)
Investors who think the organic-food movement is just a fad are completely missing the point. Whole Foods, with the help of a ton of different documentarists (think Food) and authors (like Michael Pollan), is helping redefine our relationship with the food we eat.

Though the moniker "Whole Paycheck" does have some validity -- organic food does, after all, cost more -- Whole Foods' organic products are often far cheaper than the organics you'll find at competitors. The company has clearly set itself up as the trusted name in commercial organic food. With the company believing it can one day have 1,000 stores worldwide, and a total store count of 311 as of last quarter -- the runway for growth is still very long.

I already own shares and have made a CAPScall on my profile, and I think any price below $58 would be an excellent opportunity for further helpings of Whole Foods.

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN)
Short-term investors beware: This company is not for you. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is famous for playing the super-long game -- trading short-term losses now for market dominance later. That's basically what's taking place now: the company is spending tons of cash to build out their fulfillment centers and is selling its Kindle Fire tablet for peanuts in an effort to drive traffic to their website.

At its height back in 1999, Wal-Mart had a market cap of more than $300 billion. Amazon has completely changed retail, is definitely the future of retail, and yet its market cap is less than 30% of Wal-Mart's peak market cap. I believe that over the long run, Amazon is pretty cheap right now. I've backed that belief up with my own money, and on my profile.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)
Sure, everyone knows that search is this company's core, but think of all the other irons that it has in the fire. Google's Android operating system has emerged as the only real threat to Apple and its iOS. Google is expert at monetizing, and it has barely tapped into YouTube. And Chrome has just moved into second place as the browser of choice by netizens, according to StatCounter.

With all of those things going for the company, and founder Larry Page back at the helm, I don't think investors can lose by buying shares at recent prices. Like all of the other companies I've mentioned, I've backed this up with my own money, and on my profile.

A name for this type of investing
Truth be told, the "growth" moniker may not be the most accurate for this type of investing. By focusing on innovation, I'm really zeroing in on what Fool co-founder David Gardner calls Rule Breakers.

David runs a highly successful newsletter based on Rule Breakers, and they've recently assembled a special free report about The Next Rule Breaking Multi-bagger. Inside the report, you'll find out about a company that's poised the benefit from our aging population. Get the report today, absolutely free!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.