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From The Editor: The Business Of Chatter

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in "Heat": Their dialogue led to a shoot-out. Our package is designed to guide you toward something more productive. | Warner Brothers/Everett Collection

When I first began as a journalist, I would occasionally climb onto my desk and stand on it to peer at the newsroom from a different perspective. My colleagues would look at me quizzically, but the altered view helped to spur my creativity. It encouraged me to approach my assignments with fresh eyes.

This month's issue is for people who like seeing things with fresh eyes. You'll have noticed by now that there are two distinct sides to the magazine: two covers and two editorial configurations that meet in the middle. The side you're reading now features the kind of stories you expect in the front of every issue of Fast Company: Farhad Manjoo's dissection of Silicon Valley's "map wars"; recommendations given by execs at outfits like Boxee and Frog Design; and first-person accounts of how the best companies, such as Ideo and P&G, develop their big ideas. This is the standard view of the magazine, the one we know and love.

The other side is the altered view. It's devoted to the art of creative conversations—which at first glance may not seem like a natural topic for a magazine that covers business. But that's what makes it exactly right for Fast Company. Many of the companies we cover have helped create this new world of constant information flow—of information overload, as many would say. And yet when you ask their execs how they develop their industry-reinventing ideas, they come back again and again to face-to-face dialogue. There is simply no better way to test your assumptions than in conversation with a peer—no better way to learn, to experiment, to be prodded. Which is why we've chosen to devote our pages to the value of dialogue in the age of Twitter.

The centerpiece of our issue is a series of conversations between Hollywood's Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, and others. All these chats illustrate the potential of direct dialogue, as does contributing writer Max Chafkin's wonderful profile of Silicon Valley investor Kevin Rose, who is engaged in a nonstop conversation with the tech industry's brightest minds. To help you manage the art of conversation, senior editor Andrew Simon pulled together our very own how-to section. And senior writer Danielle Sacks tackled the marketing question of this age: How, in the middle of all this noise, can a brand really have a conversation with a consumer?

Dialogue is a defining feature of our age, across the economy and around the globe. For every strident cable-TV talking head or online flamethrower, there are rising communities of interest, springing from myriad new social platforms, that present us with new levels of understanding, access, and possibility. We hope our issue helps you find the opportunities in this challenging environment and cut through the cacophony. And if, at first pass, it doesn't—well, just turn it upside down!

Robert Safian

A version of this article appeared in the February 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.