I enjoyed "The Beauty of Simplicity" (November 2005). Simplicity is more than a reaction to information anxiety (and shrinking attention spans); it's a timeless moving target. Such a pursuit is not simple. Consumers are complex. All this would seem to make simplicity a creative myth, but it remains something worth fighting for. As your piece echoes, the interdisciplinary triad of design, business, and technology is what we need to take up the challenge of easing human efforts. Simply put, simplicity ultimately helps people cope with and navigate an ever-complex world—another thing worth fighting for.
Kudos to Linda Tischler for a beautiful cover story on simplicity. Maybe it takes a woman to see what's really happening in consumer electronics. All the articles written by men have focused on "convergence," a concept that is making products more complex.
Terrific article on Marissa Mayer and the art of the simple. For the longest time I've been telling people that no, your desktop computer is not simple to use—you just don't realize how much you've had to learn to operate one. Your car is simple to use. . . . And folks stare at me like I'm the idiot.
Google's Marissa Mayer compares her company's service to a Swiss Army knife. If I read or hear one more "leader" comparing his or her technology to a Swiss Army knife, I'm going to scream. The problem is, it's old, ubiquitous, and not all that great a metaphor for technology. Having lived for 15 years with an IT director, I can tell you that these days, the handy Leatherman has far surpassed the Swiss Army knife's place in all those geek pockets. Maybe someone should try to compare their technology to a Leatherman. Or better yet, how about just explaining what your technology does without all the metaphors? Are we all becoming such simpletons that we need a doodad analogy to understand Google?
San Marcos, Texas
In "Fast Cities" (November 2005), Richard Florida of George Mason University considers it a bad thing that Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs have a low tolerance for homosexuality while a good thing that Vancouver "has a large gay community." I'm trying to understand the relevance between the Gay Index score and a city's business climate.
There's sad irony in the caveat applied to Colorado Springs' ranking as a "fast city." Red-flagging a city's conservative Christian dynamic, as if there's something inherently wrong with that demographic, seems more than just a little intolerant to me.
The Editors respond:
Florida's research focuses on what causes creative people to cluster in particular locales. Among other things, the percentage of gay people in a region's population is indicative, Florida believes, of "an underlying culture that's conducive to creativity." After all, creativity drives innovation and innovation drives business. Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs had superior rankings in Florida's measure of talent and technology, and therefore made the list.
Thanks for the article on Roadtrip Nation ("Inspiration Junkies," November 2005). I am a 25-year-old woman who graduated from a prestigious university in 2002 and pretty much have had the access to do just about anything I could ever imagine. This has paralyzed me. I've been stuck in jobs I'm unhappy with, and nearly all of my peers are in a similar boat. I'm so glad to know that someone is working to spread the message to young people like me that we should not be afraid to bust free from the invisible walls of the mime's box of career choice—that we should take some chances, because now is the time. I myself am on the brink of chucking my day job, doing a bit of traveling, and then coming back to pursue a hobby that I've loved for years but never figured could put food on my table. I am terrified. But I could not be more exhilarated that I'm following the "choose your own adventure" advice I've been hearing so much of lately (a lot of it in your pages).
New York, New York
I absolutely devoured "Inspiration Junkies." As a professional career counselor with more than 20 years in the field, I experience almost daily the frustration and confusion visited upon people of all ages trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up. Sadly, most of them decide incorrectly, working out of a misguided desire to make the "right" choice with the one shot that life provides them—settling for much less and cheating everyone involved, including their employers, their families, their peers, and themselves. They make misguided career decisions based on such specious data as what they are good at (e.g., math), where they are likely to get work, or who will have them. Most people are surrounded by hints of what I like to call their "best stuff," but they never connect the dots to take appropriate action. My counsel is frequently something like, "Stop thinking so much and start taking action." The Roadtrip Nation guys have tremendous insights into "just doing it."
Government v. Business
I distrust the facile rhetoric suggesting that "government should be run like a business" ("No Way to Run a Business," November 2005). There is a critical difference in operation: transparency. Businesses have trade secrets and disciplined dealings concerning public statements, but governments are accountable to all citizens, and transparency is crucial to successful public governance. When a government administration sees its primary "product" as public relations, running a tight ship and staying on message yields bad governance, and governance should be the real product here.
The failure of government-as-business in this case is that this administration is in the wrong business. It believes that public governance is intrinsically flawed and thus it has systematically set up governance for failure. It's a smashing PR success.
Los Angeles, California
The Future of Hospital Design—Today
I really enjoyed reading about the architecture firm OWP/P's efforts to make hospitals safer ("Life-and-Death Design," November 2005). Lots of effort is needed in the designing of safer hospitals. However, I was disappointed that Fast Company chose to chronicle accomplishments in hospital design that will not be complete until 2009 when you could have been reporting on the first project of this kind, which opened in early August 2005. St. Joseph's Hospital in rural Wisconsin has incorporated the design insights from fields such as aviation, academia, and manufacturing to build and open a revolutionary hospital. It was built from the ground up for patient safety using an open and participative design process. It's truly groundbreaking, and it is open and operating today. That's fast.
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A version of this article appeared in the January/February 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.