Fast Company

Our Forecast: Pragmatic Optimism

A letter from the founding editors.

And now it's time for our new-economy weather report. First we'll take a look at current weather conditions, and then we'll go to our long-term forecast. And -- whoa! This just in! According to Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, his company has just been hit by a "100-year flood." No wonder he feels like he's been cast in the role of Noah, doing his best to keep the company afloat After the Deluge. But this wasn't just a flood: It was a massive, sudden, unpredicted downpour that hit Cisco by surprise. In a five-day period in December, the company's orders dropped 10%, and before long, Cisco had gone from 65% growth to flat or negative growth. Chambers's forecast: pragmatism mixed with smart risk taking.

Farther down the coast of California, Roger Cass also has a watery view of the new economy. But he's not seeing rain; he's looking at waves. Cass has made a career as an economic futurist, studying what changes in the economy, and, more importantly, what doesn't change. And despite the wet weather that John Chambers is experiencing, Cass sees blue sky and sunshine for, oh, the next 20 years. "This interruption will be over by 2002," says Cass, who just might be The Last Optimist. "Maybe even as early as the second half of 2001." His forecast: optimism bolstered by steady or rising consumer confidence.

There's a third group of waterlogged weather watchers: leaders of new-economy companies who want to keep swimming, even if it feels like the water's rising and they're going against the tide. For them, the challenge is How to Stay on the Move . . . When the World Is Slowing Down. Here's a critical question for every leader: How do you stay afloat when people around you are sinking? The forecast from these steadfast swimmers: optimism mixed with pragmatism. Or, if you prefer, pragmatism mixed with optimism.

Intel CEO Craig Barrett is the last of this issue's weathermen. According to Barrett, the bad weather that has struck the Internet won't dampen Intel's enthusiasm. In fact, Barrett says, Intel Is Putting Its Chips on the Net. The company's goal is to convert itself into a 100% e-business and to use the power of the Net to cut error rates and increase speed. Barrett's forecast: steely-eyed optimism with increased speed.

For what it's worth, here's our forecast: We see a period of continued change marked by ongoing flux. It's always a good idea to carry an umbrella, and, as John Chambers can attest, maybe even build an ark. One more thing: Remember to pack your surfboard, in case Roger Cass is right.

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