Accountability. Credibility. Authenticity. Those were the hallmarks of this exciting new world of business — business done right. So . . . what happened? What happened to one of the defining ideas, the notion that the customer is in charge? Remember the promise: You can have it the way you want it, any time, any place, any version. Remember the admonition to business leaders: You don't run your company — your customers do. Big-time promise! Big-time warning! Small-time delivery!
Something went wrong — which is why Charles Fishman embarked on a journey into the dark side of customer service. "But Wait, You Promised . . ." is part of the promise of Fast Company to hold our community accountable, to gauge promises made and promises kept (or broken) across the face of business today.
That promise is especially important in Act II of the new economy — a time when what's real is more important than what's claimed. Credibility is another facet of Act II — in this case, the kind of credibility that comes from prescribing a practical, useful, and powerful set of practices to deal with tougher times.
At Fast Company's most recent RealTime (in Phoenix last October), Jim Collins, one of the business world's most compelling thought leaders, captured the lesson in a story he told about the "Stockdale Paradox." Collins asked Admiral James Stockdale, who spent more than seven years as a POW in the dreaded "Hanoi Hilton," Who didn't make it back from being a POW? The optimists, said Stockdale. The message: You have to look reality in the eye and face the tough truth. "How to Bounce Back From Setbacks" and "Masters of Disaster" are designed to give unflinching advice to tough-minded business leaders who are committed to overcoming adversity.
In the pages of Fast Company, Act II is all about authenticity — real-world, down-to-earth examples of people embracing the possibilities of technology and new thinking to bring change to their lives. When it comes to real-world and down-to-earth, you can't get much more authentic than McDermitt, Nevada, "The Town that the Internet (Almost) Forgot." Chuck Salter's report on the work of Pat Goff, a 33-year-old high-school teacher who wants to lasso the Internet and bring it into this town of 756, tells it like it is: What happens when the Web comes to a small town? High hopes. Big fears. Small changes. And just maybe a better way of life. That's about all that anyone can promise.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.