For the third year in a row, we're using our April issue to identify four organizations whose work represents the four touchstones of the new economy -- the four categories of what we call The Agenda: grassroots leadership, total teamwork, social justice, and people and technology. In spotlighting these companies, we have our own agenda. We not only want to offer you insightful reports on the sharpest thinking and the best practices in business today; we also want to identify the core characteristics that make fast companies truly fast.
If you read these four articles and reflect on the lessons that they offer, you will receive an advanced course in the new economy. In particular, there are four messages that cut across all four pieces.
First, the work that we describe here is hard. The work of The Agenda demands not only an appreciation of cutting-edge ideas but also a commitment to putting those ideas into practice.
Second, the themes in The Agenda should not be seen as casual add-ons to a company's existing operation. For those themes to make a difference in your company, you have to adopt them as an essential element of how you do business.
Third, each of these four companies has learned a critical metalesson: If you want to build an outstanding company, then you have to be ready to handle the consequences of standing out. Too many companies want the benefits of seeming different -- without the risks that come with being different.
Finally, the four themes of The Agenda are all of a piece. A company that practices grassroots leadership is more likely to appreciate the importance of integrating people and technology; a company that builds its practices around people and technology is more likely to create a culture that embraces total teamwork; and a company that understands the value of total teamwork is more likely to pursue social justice.
What, ultimately, is our agenda? To prompt you to think seriously about your agenda -- about what you can do to change the way that work gets done in the new economy.