Over? Sez who? Okay, certain assumptions about the Internet economy have been shattered: the short-lived notion that there would be a separate business sector devoted exclusively to dotcoms; the assumption that whenever a startup met a big, established company, the question wasn't whether the startup would win, but when. Those ideas are dead.
But that does not mean that the new economy — and the dynamic companies and visionary leaders who are reinventing the ideas and practices of business — are over. Not for a moment. Digital technologies remain a powerful force for strategic transformation. The globalization of markets continues to introduce new companies, new customers, and new ideas. Thanks to what's happened over the past five years, companies and their executives have embraced — and will continue to refine — powerful new ideas about what it really takes to develop a winning strategy, how to build a creative and productive organization, and what it means to succeed.
At the same time, there are serious, significant new developments before us. We call this new set of challenges "Act II" because it represents a fundamental shift in psychology and business practice. And like any deeply felt shift in the operating environment of business, the new conditions require Fast Company to change, just as they require all organizations that aspire to be fast companies to change.
First, we need to take stock of our own thinking. Over the past five years, we've advanced a series of propositions about the way the new world of business works: Hierarchy stifles innovation. Speed releases initiative. The way to win is to outthink the competition. Five years have seen many of these ideas, tools, and tactics move from radical innovation to conventional wisdom. Act II demands that we ask ourselves, as this issue's cover package asks, What did we get right? What did we get wrong? What do we do now?
Second, we need to embrace the convergence of the old economy and the new economy into ... the economy. It's time to jettison the language of old and new, business and e-business. All of us need to embrace the future, trailblazing the uncharted territories of reinvention and innovation, and, at the same time, to demonstrate respect for the enduring, timeless questions of business: the art of strategy and the power of the customer, the energy of technology and the drive of talent. Act II is all about new answers to old questions.
Third, we need to fit our temperament to the times. Character doesn't change, nor do values, to meet a new economic climate. But demeanor does. As is often the case in theater, Act I of the new economy was full of the spirit of creation. In Act II, things get harder. The game gets tougher. No question, we are still living in the most amazing time in the history of business. We think that Act II will be a time of tough fun — a time when our character will have to be measured as carefully as our financial performance. So join us. The curtain is going up for Act II. Over? No way. It's just beginning — again.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.