There are two economies at work in the United States right now. One is traditional, entrenched, powerful, and often highly profitable. Big oil companies, large manufacturers, and defense contractors fall into this group. So do the targets of Occupy Wall Street. These businesses account for a lot of revenue, and a lot of jobs, but they're not changing much—at least not for the better. They don't tell us much about what the future will be like.
Then there's the innovation economy: defined by the creation of new businesses and new ways of operating, with its emotional and philosophical center in Silicon Valley. Some might argue that this second economy has been in place for decades, fueling new tech-based ventures. There is ample evidence to support this (Apple, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, et al). Yet in the past few years, we've seen an explosion of entrepreneurship, not just in the Bay Area but around the country in places such as Austin, Boston, Detroit, New York, and Portland, Oregon. The influence of these smaller, often fast-growing, companies is pervasive: Almost every big, traditional business has some effort under way to spawn small, "fast" divisions within its operation.
Nowhere is this second economy more ascendant than in an emerging ecosystem we call Co.Create Nation—a triangle of new thinking centered around the tech world of Silicon Valley, the entertainment world of Hollywood, and the marketing world of Madison Avenue. There was a time when the lines between industries were firmly demarcated; those days are ending. Justin Timberlake is not just a singer and actor; he is also an investor in MySpace. Chipotle is not just a Tex-Mex food outlet; it is partnering with Willie Nelson and Jamie Oliver to launch home-grown music videos and web content. Google is not just a search engine; it is creating its own advertisements and partnering with rock band Arcade Fire to show off its programming tools.
Traditional lines between industries are breaking down all across the business landscape. That's exciting—and somewhat terrifying. Where will all this cocreation take the economy? What do the shifting borders mean for you and your business? These are questions we tackle every month in print—and which we'll be covering daily at fastcocreate.com, a new website we're launching imminently.
We hope you'll enjoy our kickoff to this coverage—this issue's package on "How to Lead a Creative Life", anchored by executive editor Rick Tetzeli's entertaining and instructive profile of director Martin Scorsese. At a difficult time for our economy, it's worth remembering that inspiration can be found all across the American spectrum and especially within this powerful new hybrid of Co.Create Nation. There, a sense of possibility often leads to surprising solutions—with investments that won't require anyone to take to the streets.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.