Cradle to Cradle
Our November 2008 story about green architect William McDonough ("The Mortal Messiah") hit a nerve. "Why pick on him?" one irate reader wrote. "He deserves our thanks, not our scrutiny." Many other emails and comments on our site drew an important distinction: "Idea generation and implementation are very different activities," one writer noted. "Impressive are those who can really do both, but also those who know they can't."
Green Gone Wrong
Your article on Bill McDonough raises core issues of our planet's future. It seems that he is stuck in a leadership model that is limiting the potential for rolling out solutions at an appropriate rate and scale.
A few years ago, I was elected chairman of the board for a nonprofit that had set its sights on building a world-class science center in Spokane, Washington. The first choice was to purchase an old Costco building and remodel it. Then I listened to a rebroadcast of a talk that McDonough had delivered on the next industrial revolution, and in that moment, I knew he was exactly what we needed to rekindle the embers of innovation and ambition. Eventually, I persuaded Bill to come to town and look at our project. His ideas and inspiration set the region abuzz with possibility. Today, we are in the midst of a fund-raising campaign to get our science center built, so the next generation will have a source of inspiration and interactive connection to the world of science. McDonough + Partners is the project designer, and Bill continues to be a local hero. That he isn't a great manager and has made some sidesteps — that's clear. That he is a source of innovation, inspiration, and grand thinking at a time when we are in desperate need of those qualities and capabilities trumps his shortcomings.
I was taken by Shannon May's remarks [about the China project]: "What troubled me was that it was as if he knew nothing about the way these people lived." That kind of hubris is practiced with equal abandon by other professionals and agencies like the World Bank. There is a wealth of information around people like McDonough, yet they utterly fail to take advantage of it. Both in his failure to listen and in his demands about intellectual property, McDonough falls short.
Our environmentalist friends tend to exaggerate claims and challenges, or the ease with which things can be accomplished. That leads to getting the greatest amount of press, but it harms people's understanding of the real truth in our march toward a sustainable global economy. People need to be shown the rocks in the road along our path.
Frog Pond, Alabama
Ah, how the media love to create celebrity deities — and then topple them! Yes, McDonough is a "mortal messiah." Anyone who has worked with him (as we have at Stonyfield) knows that he has strengths and weaknesses. But what a tragedy if you let his shortcomings overshadow his phenomenal gift to the world. If it were as easy as most visionaries seem to make it, we would have already solved many of the world's problems. We take McDonough's vision and try to apply it to our day-to-day work.
Londonderry, New Hampshire
This is a story that should have been told three years ago. But if you're in the business, you can't afford to criticize him.
Lake Forest, Illinois
I really enjoyed Josh Dean's story ("Family Values," November 2008). It will be interesting to see how advertisers will transition to an environment where the consumer can simply skip over their messages. Utilizing pop-culture icons to produce advertising that actually has substance is more refreshing than Fred Astaire dancing with a vacuum.
The Power of Presentation
As a college student, I see my share of PowerPoints (Made to Stick, November 2008) with too many bullet points and too much clip art. My professors should read this article. If they did, they would understand that effective PowerPoint presentations focus on the main ideas and feature images specific to them, and I might just pay attention in class long enough to learn.
San Diego, California
I will go postal if I am forced to watch a presentation where the speaker shows a million slides with a million words, reads the million words, and then passes out a handout of the million slides with the million words. I am a graphic designer, and people want me to produce their million words on a million slides with bad art. They don't want me to help them design a presentation that won't make people run to the door. Next time, I'm going to say, "Wait, let me see your business card. Does it say graphic designer?" That would be fun.
This is a great article ("To Catch a Thief," November 2008), though I was surprised that GadgetTrak, one of the popular companies in this space, wasn't included. It deals with computers, PDAs, cell phones, the whole deal.
Mike Donovan Hausler
My firm uses similar software for managing our clients' computers. Laptops have been stolen, and while the New York Police Department did assign detectives to the case, recovering stolen laptops isn't on their priority list. Don't believe everything you see on Law & Order.
New York, New York
What Fliers Really Want
Of course, it's nice to have "happy" colors in airport terminals (Fast Talk, November 2008). But what really makes us happy as travelers is improvements in baggage handling (including promptly getting luggage to the baggage area), fewer extra fees, and reasonable ticket prices.
Huntington Beach, California
Fast Fixes In the November 2008 issue, we misspelled the name of photographer Matthias Clamer. In the same issue, in "In Your Eyes," we incorrectly stated the number of human-rights videos that have been uploaded to the Hub. The correct number is 1,442. We regret the errors.
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A version of this article appeared in the February 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.