Like most of the work that we write about, like most of the work that takes place in the new economy, Fast Company began its life as a project. In other words, it started as an idea. The idea went through a lot of iterations. Then we tried to convince people that the idea was a good one. Some of those people suggested that the idea needed some tweaking. Some suggestions for tweaks were good ideas themselves. Within a year, we produced a prototype. At the end of another year, we met Mort Zuckerman and Fred Drasner, who bought into the idea. We moved into the next phase: project launch and execution. At the end of year one of that phase, Advertising Age named us Launch of the Year, and Adweek named us Startup of the Year. At the end of year two, we were named finalist for the National Magazine Award for excellence in design. And now, at the end of year three, Ad Age has named us Magazine of the Year; Adweek has named us number one in its "10 Under 30" up-and-comers category; the Society of Publication Designers has honored us with 23 awards, including a Magazine of the Year nomination; and we have been designated a finalist for National Magazine Awards for both general excellence and excellence in design. From zero to Magazine of the Year in three years.
The point of going through that project chronology is not just to celebrate the awards that have come our way, nor simply to thank readers, advertisers, and contributors for their remarkable support. The point is that almost everything that Fast Company has gone through is reflected in the themes that we present in the current issue. We're learning the lessons of work and life right alongside members of the Fast Company community.
The life history of Fast Company could serve as a case study for Tom Peters's cover story on The Wow Project. According to our old friend Tom, all work today is project work. With his usual blend of insight, example, and exhortation, Tom lays out the four stages in the life of any project and outlines the critical variables that convert an ordinary project into a Wow Project.
Two of those variables merit special mention because of their direct application to the awards that we've received lately: passion and design. Fast Company's first three years have been marked by a passionate relationship between those of us who create this magazine (along with our Web site, our live events, and our specialty publications) and those who participate as readers, advertisers, and contributors. Our aim all along has been to be not just a magazine but also a movement. On the design front, the awards given by the Society of Publication Designers acknowledge what all of us know to be the case: Design matters. The "look and feel" of Fast Company is an integral part of how we convey the message that work today can be energetic, creative, personally expressive, and often a ton of fun.
Or consider our interview with Peter Senge, another old friend of Fast Company. About 10 years ago, with the publication of his breakthrough book The Fifth Discipline, Peter launched a movement to create "learning organizations." Now, in Learning for a Change, he shares what he's learned about learning: To make change happen, we need to be gardeners, not mechanics. Here again, Fast Company could serve as an object lesson: Our growth has been a grassroots phenomenon. The 12,000 people who have registered as members of the Company of Friends represent a community that embraces learning and change.
Nothing could be more "Fast Company" than The Ultimate Guide to Internet Deals. No, as a company, we're not engaged in the go-go deal making that is now the hallmark of life on Web. What we do share with Internet companies is a keen sense of how fast things are moving. Our own meteoric take-off and steep growth trajectory are emblematic of a new world of competition and collaboration — a world in which creative relationships can affect the shape of entire industries. Internet deals operate by their own rules. Take too long to make a decision, and the chance to decide will disappear.
Here's what all of this boils down to: As you read about the fresh ideas and cutting-edge practices described in this issue, you are also encountering the next stage of the project called Fast Company. We'd like to take this moment to pause, to thank all of you who have joined us in this project — and to say, "Wow!"
A version of this article appeared in the May 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.