The good news: You've got more choices than ever. Try this job or that one? Work for someone else or become a free agent? Take the company public or keep it private - or sell it to another company? The explosion of choice is one of the unanticipated, unavoidable outgrowths of the convergence of digital technology, abundant capital, and global competition - the new world of business in which all of us work and live.
The bad news: You've got tougher decisions than ever. Every choice involves higher stakes. The margin for error shrinks. The variables get more complex. And the consequences of your decisions touch more people: family, colleagues, customers.
The new news: No matter what you decide, you can't really predict the outcome - much less control it. And that's probably the most important, and the most poignant, lesson in this second-anniversary issue of Fast Company.
Consider the cover story, "Is Selling Out 'Selling Out'?" Two high-flying startups, each with an impeccable pedigree and top-notch leadership, faced the same fork-in-the-road decision: Sell the company or go it alone? They chose opposite paths, took unplanned journeys, and arrived at unexpected destinations.
Take that lesson and apply it to people. We interviewed three leading experts about what it takes to make good decisions. Two Harvard Business School psychologists ask, "Is Your Job Your Calling?" Executive coach Richard Leider asks, "Are You Deciding on Purpose?" - and suggests that personal reflection, solitude, and inside-out decision-making will help you do just that.
We had a choice about how to celebrate our second anniversary. Most magazines hold fancy parties. We invited 50 of the best brains in business for a mountain-top gathering in Telluride, Colorado and asked them to help us brainstorm about the future. The group - which we've dubbed "The Fast Pack" - chose to focus on four basic questions about work and life: Is faster really better? Is fear more powerful than hope? What works at work? How do you succeed at success?
Here's a choice that more and more leaders face: Should they move faster by decentralizing authority, or avoid mistakes by holding onto the reins? AES Corp. has decided to give "Power to the People" AES is big, rich - and unlike any company you've seen. It builds power plants by handing power to frontline workers. Its radical competitive formula is working all around the world.
Big decisions have serious consequences. But business isn't brain surgery, right? Well, when Ben Carson goes to the office, he knows that "This Is Brain Surgery". Dr. Carson is one of the world's most celebrated neurosurgeons. He offers lessons about work and life that make sense - whether or not your work involves life-and-death decisions.
These days, when you choose a company to work for, you choose more than an employer - you choose a way of life. And you choose an orientation program that showcases what that life is going to be like. "Get with the Program", in the Report from the Future, looks inside two almost diametrically opposed first-day experiences: Greet Street's job-in-a-box meets Intel's job-on-a-chip. And in our NetWork section, there's a different kind of choice: Why fly to a strategy session or an annual meeting when you can attend it on the Web? "Lights! Camera! Web Action!" tells you everything you need to know to take the travel out of your meetings - by going virtual.
Does this sound like a lineup that's worth reading? You decide!
A version of this article appeared in the February/March 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.