"I loved the October/November issue from cover to cover," emails Kelly Allan. "I read the new issue cover to cover," writes another. "I put yellow stickies on a bunch of pages, copied articles for people in the office, and passed my issue around." It's a message we keep hearing in emails, letters, and phone calls. This "cover-to-cover" reaction just keeps coming up.
We're not exactly sure how to react to these reactions. At first we were thrilled. "Cover to cover" sounds great! Are people in the Fast Company community finding the articles so useful that they can't put the magazine down? We'd certainly like to think so.
Then we got worried. Is there a dark side to "cover to cover?" Maybe readers are feeling overburdened — perhaps there's too much stuff between our covers. Maybe "cover to cover" is a polite way of saying "lighten up" — offer some relief, a little R&R in the pages of FC. We started to wonder: Have we gone too far? Have we made reading Fast Company like, well, drinking from a fire hose?
So strictly as a reader service, and just in case "cover to cover" does mean that you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by what's between our covers, here are some techniques to help you be more selective — to read only what you absolutely need to read in this issue.
For example, instead of reading Fast Company cover to cover, you could read just the first and last article. That alone would take you from A to Z: from the appetite for gourmet food in Silicon Valley that opens our Report from the Future to our Spy in the House of Work's Zen-like meditation on the nature of temporary temporary employment.
Or, if you're looking for just one mind-bending article to help stay ahead of the curve of change, uncover the wisdom in "What Comes After What Comes Next" our account of Watts Wacker's undercover approach to discovering the future, and "What Comes After Your Success," our case study of Jim Taylor's strategic application of Wacker's radical ideas at Gateway 2000. You'll even learn how to be your own futurist.
Maybe you're less concerned about the future than you are about boosting the performance of your company or team today. In that case, "They Write the Right Stuff" is the right stuff for you. It explains how Ted Keller and his team of programmers at Lockheed Martin create perfect software, or at least as perfect as human beings have ever achieved. They do what they do because they have to. Their code runs the space shuttle — and if it's not perfect, people die. How they do it provides a collection of lessons and techniques that can put your projects into orbit.
Then again, if all you really want to learn is how to get better at this crazy game of business, you'll find the answer in "Game Over." Simulation is a new tool that's sweeping business. It's no wonder. The uncomfortable reality in most companies is that people are making tougher decisions in less time with fewer resources. Being great at business today requires something few people have — opportunities to practice. Our article offers a range of business simulations that you can learn from a chance to practice making decisions without risking your career.
Finally, if you're like most of us, every day is a wrestling match with stress. Our advice: relax! There's just one article you need to read in this issue, "Stress Less" a ToolBox filled with cures to the country's most common ailment.
Of course, our advice may go unheeded. If you look at this lineup and find yourself intrigued by a magazine that explores everything from how musical metaphors apply to business ("The Gary Burton Trio") to how a Canadian televisionary is reinventing TV ("Don't Change That Channel . . . Change the Rules!"), well, then be our guest. Go ahead, do what you have to do. Read it cover to cover.
A version of this article appeared in the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.