For the past several months, we've all been operating without a plan. How do you think about the unthinkable? How do you respond to the unprecedented? In our discussions with business leaders across the country, we have found remarkable examples of people and teams rising to this challenge with overflowing hearts and fighting spirits. In this issue of Fast Company, we present only a few of the many stories we've heard and the powerful lessons we've learned.
First, we offer you three portraits of courage, commitment, and conviction in the face of disaster. Meet Bonnie Reitz, a living lesson in the power of personal resolve. She first came aboard as Continental's Turnaround Pilot, and now she's determined that she will keep Continental flying. In eBay Learns to Trust Again, we look at new issues facing the World Trade Center of the Web — the giant and open global exchange of 34 million people built on freedom, private markets, and trust. The challenge for eBay's leaders is to craft a set of operating principles that reaffirm basic trust in the community and that reckon appropriately with the dangers of unprincipled participants. Finally, you'll find Crisis and Confidence at Ground Zero as Crisis Management International, a consulting service that operates like the National Guard of therapists, goes to work. Within hours of the attack on the World Trade Center, CMI mobilized its resources to deliver support to the hardest hit. It's a story of human caring and practical help.
Here's some more insight into what it takes to overcome adversity: He's Belfast's Security Blanket profiles the general manager of Belfast's Europa hotel, which holds the dubious distinction of being the "world's most bombed" hotel. But John Toner and his staff have prevailed over terror to make the hotel the best place to stay in that city. Searching for New Directions offers the wisdom of eight business and technology leaders who answer the question, What will it take to get the economy moving again? And How Will Your Company Adapt? harnesses the theories of Charles Darwin to describe how leaders can give their companies a natural advantage by adapting quickly in a world of constant change.
What stitches all of these pieces together is a simple but powerful recognition: War throws all plans away. Courage and a fighting spirit take over. That's what we're seeing today as business fights back.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.