In the Fast Company view of how companies work, compete, and win, these are the people who make a difference. They fly undetected, below the big-media radar screen. They do their business without the kiss — or the curse — of celebrity. What they have may not be so exceptional: They may not have the loftiest titles, the fanciest offices, the biggest paychecks, or the highest profiles. But what they do — with their lives, in their careers — is indeed exceptional. In the new economy, these are the people who matter.
By their work you shall know them: Meet 16 men and women whom we consider to be "fast" because of how they dream, how they think, how they lead, how they contribute. They represent widely variant career tracks: an orchestra conductor and a psychologist, a minister and a mayor, a headhunter and a historian. They operate in vastly different settings: a powerful Silicon Valley technology company, a dairy company in America's heartland, a consortium of large U.S. banks. Yet they share a common understanding of the first rule of the new economy: One person, endowed with passion and purpose, can make an enormous difference.
The contributions of these 16 innovators illustrate seven "fast" themes — themes that give shape to the terrain of the new world of work and competition:
ben zander orchestrating greatness
hans willimann service czar
What's the role of a leader in a company where no one is smart enough to be truly "in charge"? Today's leader teaches, coaches, inspires — and creates other leaders at every level of an organization.
michael mcneal talent scout
eunice azzani head farmer
More and more people are applying a new logic to the old notion of success. A career has become more a zigzag journey toward personal fulfillment than a series of promotions up a clearly delineated ladder. Companies that want to recruit and retain the best people have to understand how those people are redefining their careers.
albert yu innovation inside
catherine allen breakthrough banker
joyce wycoff innovation instigator
Where do great ideas come from? In an economy defined by change and speed, every company needs leaders who can instill an urge — and develop the ability — to invent new products, processes, and possibilities.
barbara waugh radical changed
john norquist outside-the-ballot-box thinker
melissa moss cooperative consumer
Change is coming so fast, and on so many fronts, that business as usual is no longer an option. People and companies face a stark choice: Learn on your own how to make change happen — or wait until someone else makes you change.
ray bakke urban evangelist
adam kahane country changer
With economic revolution comes social revolution. Those who have the talent to succeed in the new economy have a responsibility to address its unanticipated effects — and to apply its ideas and practices to unmet human needs.
john cone quick study
ron chernow past company
Fast companies also have to be smart companies. Competition today is about how much knowledge an organization creates, not how many factories it builds. Companies that want to keep growing fast need people who can keep learning fast.
dan hanson meaning maker
martin seligman organizational optimist
The demands of work and life create unparalleled freedom and opportunity — and unprecedented stress. The new challenge is to find meaning amid chaos.
We present these seven themes and these 16 people in order to show what it means to be fast. We seek to identify some of the fastest performers we know, to draw lessons from their stories, and to accelerate your own development in an economy where "fast" is more than just a measure of velocity — it's also a measure of one's impact on the world.
A version of this article appeared in the December 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.