Most of us have a fairly negative view of such huge pharmaceutical companies as Pfizer ("The Thrill of Defeat," June). I am not prepared to acknowledge them as altruistic giants, at least not in their corporate mentalities, but your wonderful illumination of the people who are working every day to try to improve and save lives lends a whole new human aura to the names on the stock ticker. The next time I pop a pill, which will be all too soon and frequently, I'll think of the people like Dr. Oates and Dr. Hutson and feel a twinge of gratitude for their efforts on our behalf.
Mark L. Chien
College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State University Cooperative Extension
As a pastor, I find each issue of Fast Company helpful in pushing me to think creatively about leadership and change in the context of my congregation. After reading "The Thrill of Defeat," I was excited to pass the article along to our leadership team to encourage them in the midst of seemingly frequent failure and discouragement.
Pierced Chapel/Woodmen Valley Chapel
Colorado Springs, Colorado
I am a bench scientist at a Pfizer research site. It is so nice to read an accurate, positive piece about our work. I work 60 hours a week in the hope that we will improve the quality of life for patients. I have printed this article and posted it in our lab and in my office. Whenever ABC and Peter Jennings chews us up, I'll read it again and know at least one journalist got it right!
Senior associate scientist
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Residue of Design
I loved your article about the masters of design (June). However, I wonder if J Mays and Ford can pull off the new/old 2005 Mustang design. This model is based on the 1967 Mustang, which is fine for some nostalgia buffs. But the people who remember the 1967 Mustang when it was new are now well into their fifties — and about ready for Lincoln Town Cars. This philosophy does not exactly appeal to young generation-Y buyers starved for fresh, new designs. Auto manufacturers need young buyers for long-term, repeat sales, which explains what Toyota is trying to do with Scion. After all, the retro Thunderbird also designed by Mays didn't exactly set sales charts on fire.
Real estate researcher
J Mays has it so very right when he talks about automotive beauty, saying, "I want each car to have a classic timelessness. . . ." Such beauty is instantly, viscerally recognizable, as is ugliness. That's why he spurred me to reach for my wallet with his gorgeous Ford Thunderbird. Mine's an '03. On a recent weekend, a young man drove his SUV smack into a tree while gawking at my parked 'Bird! I felt sorry for him, but I understood. . . .
Luce Associates LLC
I wanted to thank you for this powerful contribution to the advancement of design. Those of us on the front line of "demonstrating design's power and promise" can sometimes feel battle- weary. To see this recognition of our progress is heartening and invigorating. It provides needed inspiration to those of us who are seeking to inspire others.
Mintzberg the Menace
Mintzberg's advice ("The MBA Menace," June) is to "find an industry you like, get a good job, and stick with it." That refrain is no different from what I heard my first year of business school. There is no claim to a special sauce or the issuance of a key to the fast track. Instead, I am receiving tools and experience that will make me a better businessperson — and maybe one day a great manager.
MBA student, Fuqua School of Business
Durham, North Carolina
While I don't disagree that leadership is a set of practiced skills, I think it's shortsighted to assume that leadership is only a trait exhibited in the professional world and by those with managerial responsibilities. Almost everyone has had to display leadership at some point in their lives. It could have happened as far back as high school and college. Rarely is leadership first experienced and applied in the workplace. Great leadership lessons can be learned in the classroom if the course and instructor understand that leadership is a life skill and not merely a professional one.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
A More Perfect Union
Thank you for the excellent "We, Incorporated" article (July). Organizations will increasingly be seen and judged in broader contexts, and their actions must be based on values and relationships. Organizations behave unethically and harmfully — or fall short of potential — only when the participants allow the organization to operate in a small or narrow context in which relationships are limited and the values of participants are ignored.
Customer relationship manager
Greenwood Village, Colorado
Like Doug Smith, I also believe that Buddhism's practices offer a way to live a life of purpose, balancing livelihood, learning, spirituality, community, and social justice. I am highly skeptical, though, that a corporation will step up as a moral force — or even provide long-term employment in which personal relationships can fully develop.
So I would like to suggest a third alternative to where you work or live as a source of meaning: professional societies and associations. Volunteer work delivers personal and professional development, a sense of belonging, and the satisfaction of working on a real problem — improving the quality of life for a large number of people. The fifth dimension — livelihood — is also met because when you demonstrate your competence to peers, you are building your professional reputation and ability to make a living.
Senior VP for strategic development
ULI-The Urban Land Institute
A Moving Tribute to Dad
This morning I received my copy of Fast Company and read John A. Byrne's moving "Eulogy for My Father" (July). Like him, 2004 was also my first Father's Day without my dad, as he passed away in August 2003. Like his father, mine taught me the value of hard work and rather poignantly, given the time of year, the value of family. My stepdaughter is expecting a baby sometime this month. I never wanted to father a child myself, so this is both an exciting and extremely scary time for me, but I frequently get counsel by asking myself, "What would Dad do?" He may be gone, but he continues to teach me what it means to be a man.
Common Sense Design
Brighton, East Sussex, UK
The Brand Called Wow!
"The Brand You Survival Kit" (June) was a long overdue follow-up to the classic Tom Peters article from 1997. I know many people who diligently practiced what Peters preached and who, when they were downsized during the past few years, bounced back quickly. Those who had done a good job of developing a "personal brand" were usually employed much faster than those who hadn't.
Business development manager
Andrews Kurth LLP
Don't Blame Companies
I agree that workplace policies are outdated, but Shoshana Zuboff makes a leap by stating women are being "squeezed" out of the workforce by current practices ("Career Taxidermy," June). Her solution? Place the responsibility squarely on corporate America's shoulders. Make "them" conform to "me." Since when do companies owe us anything? This obsolete viewpoint is dangerous. When are we going to wake up and understand what organizations have understood all along, that we're no better or worse than the guy who takes out the trash?
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A version of this article appeared in the August 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.