Most Innovative Companies
I enjoyed the issue devoted to the World's Most Innovative Companies. I get that Fast Company is focused on business, design, the for-profit world, but then you had PatientsLikeMe as No. 23 on the list. Which got me to wonder, Where are the rest of the not-for-profits? From not-for-profits, I ended up noticing the absence of my own industry: education. Education — primary, secondary, and postsecondary — makes up something like 7% of U.S. GDP. Where are the true innovators who are actually delivering innovative education? (And I don't mean which schools have the best standardized test scores, the number of students taking AP, or the whole U.S. News and World Report set.) I take hope, inspiration, and courage from the cool and innovative companies and individuals that show up in Fast Company. I get some of my best ideas from your pages. These companies are the places I want my students to work, the kinds of new companies I hope for some of them to form. What would it look like if we were to do the education equivalent of a Grey New York or even a Frito-Lay remake?
Facebook has revolutionized how my one-red-light hometown of Cambridge, New York, communicates. On February 4, my husband purchased the former Mary McClellan Hospital. From 1919 to 2003, it helped and healed Washington County but was closed due to financial reasons and has sat abandoned. On February 6, a Facebook fan page was created, and in just four weeks, more than 815 fans from all over the country shared their stories and offered their help to revitalize a piece of their history. It's old-fashioned storytelling with a new technological twist. This is just one reason why Facebook is No. 1.
Nicole M. Klebieko
The Facebook PR machine did a great number on you in the last issue. I'm thrilled it doubled its user base, I'm envious it provides free gourmet food for its employees, I'm jealous of the 21st-century working environment, not to mention all the other (apparently) amazing achievements Facebook has brought to its staff, technology, and the rest of the world. All created with countless millions of dollars of other people's money. So let's quit this fawning at the altar that is Facebook and stop making comparisons to Google and Microsoft, for they have achieved one thing Facebook has yet to do: make a profit. Time for Fast Company to reconnect with the real business world?
Climate and Corruption
At a time when international leaders seek strategies to reduce carbon emissions and help developing countries adapt to a warmer world, I was pleased to see Fast Company recently highlight a darker corner of the climate-change debate. "In the Sand" (February) brought to light one of the most underreported concerns with international environmental policies — corruption. Your focus on good governance addresses a serious concern — one that is precisely why I authored legislation in the Senate to increase transparency in both the energy sector and in carbon-offset programs.
The Senate's Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act would send billions of taxpayer dollars to countries that agree to spare their forests. Like the proposed trans-African forest Stephan Faris wrote about, this payments-for-protecting-forestry idea is a good one, but it will only work if we transform governments along with the environment. That's why I inserted language into the bill that requires countries receiving offset payments to have their forestry programs monitored by a multi-stakeholder body that includes nongovernmental organizations. Transparency in offset programs is critical to ensuring the people, not just the powerful, benefit from these payments.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
CHAIRMAN, U.S. — HELSINKI COMMISSION
I read with great interest Nancy Lublin's article "Light My Fire." I have been involved with not-for-profits for more than 20 years, the last six as an executive recruiter primarily for not-for-profits. Every day, literally, people contact me from the for-profit sector wanting to join the not-for-profit sector because they are burned out and fed up. They are tired of the rat race and want the calm of the not-for-profit world. I laugh. I tell them they will be changing one set of frustrations for another. Why do not-for-profit professionals want to leave? Because they are human. You don't want them to leave? Treat them well. Pay them well. Show them respect. This isn't rocket science!
Bruce A. Hurwitz
New York, New York
I started in the not-for-profit sector after college, working in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh. Since that time, I've worked at various not-for-profits, and the issues Lublin highlighted seem to be consistent. In my current job, I feel separated from the field because I work at the national headquarters. In addition, program directors don't offer much inspiration, or provide enough positive feedback to employees. That's worsened by the lack of financial compensation for nonmanagerial positions. I will take Lublin's advice and "shut up" about my issues, but I wanted to let you know that I'm grateful for this article.
New York, New York
I think Lublin is missing the bigger picture on leadership and burnout in the not-for-profit field. As someone who had worked in the private sector and then became the founding executive director of a not-for-profit organization, I saw all too often that colleagues did not fully understand that a not-for-profit is still a business. It's a corporation that needs to operate under standard business practices, with the only exception being that you are not paying taxes. Having passion for an issue is less than half the battle; having an entrepreneurial spirit and an understanding of how to successfully operate and manage a corporation are really where the war is won.
It's in the Details
"The Telltale Brown M&M" is a great example of using signals as a diagnostic tool. There is one potential problem, however. If the stagehands are mobile (which they likely are) or if that particular clause becomes a story that begins to circulate, M&Ms would no longer be a reliable signal. Stagehands of one type (lazy) can pass themselves off as another type (thorough).
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Love the book. Love the band. But there are a couple of things to think about: First, it was always the promoters you had to keep an eye on, not the stagehands. But most important, where do you think all those extra brown M&Ms went? The road crew and stagehands!
Fascinating insight, really. Though I must admit I'm a little troubled that you read David Lee Roth's autobiography in your quest for potential insight.
New London, New Hampshire
Social Media's ROI
Yet another example of a company using social media to drive both top- and bottom-line revenue. Houlihan's has merged traditional marketing methods with social media, resulting in significant revenue growth as the overall industry segment is shrinking ("Happy Hour"). The question is why more companies aren't doing this.
Providence, Rhode Island
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A version of this article appeared in the May 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.