We live in a world where smaller and smaller groups of smart people can do bigger and bigger things. That’s what makes the new economy so exhilarating: You don’t have to possess great wealth, or work at a company of great size, to have a great impact on your colleagues, on your industry, or even on the world around you. The future belongs to (and is being created by) unsung heroes and rising stars — people who use their energy, their brains, their passion, their commitment, and their values to make a difference.
Our second annual “Who’s Fast” issue presents 16 such unsung heroes and rising stars. They work in many different industries, live in many different places, and define their missions in very different ways. They include an Internet-obsessed change agent at one of America’s best-known companies; the young founder of a company devoted to hiring the best and the brightest at America’s colleges; a couple who are married to each other, and to the promise of applying the tools of the new economy to effect social change; a car designer who is responsible for some of today’s best-known automobile models; a chef who runs one of the most celebrated restaurants in the United States; an Internet strategist who left his position at one of the world’s most powerful technology companies so that he could increase his influence on the growth of the Web economy; and many more. Indeed, you don’t even have to be alive to be “fast”: Our collection also includes a deceased professor whose powerful ideas have outlived his earthly presence.
The contributions of these 16 leaders, thinkers, and innovators illustrate six “fast” themes — themes that give shape to the terrain of the new world of work.
The Internet is about much more than email, Web sites, and e-commerce. It is, quite simply, the most powerful laboratory for business innovation ever created. The Net allows innovators to scrutinize the value chain of any industry, to find ways to improve the way that value chain works — and to reinvent the economic model of that industry. It allows entrepreneurs to marry basic needs with cutting-edge technology, enabling them to invent whole new industries.
Work and Life
If we’re so smart, why are we all working so hard? If we’re so prosperous, why aren’t we happier? Forget, for a moment, fast-changing technologies and global connectivity. What’s radical about the new economy is that it forces us to reexamine some basic questions: What kind of work do we want to do? What kinds of lives do we want to lead?
In a world where bold, new ideas are the most important product of any company, the battle for talent is the most important form of competition among companies. After all, companies don’t have ideas — people do. If you want to fill your organization with smart ideas, you have to fill it with more than your fair share of the smart people in your industry.
One of the most hopeful — and challenging — realities of the new world of work is that people have more choices than ever. There’s no one right way to create a product anymore, or to build a company, or to chart a career. The real challenge of the new economy is a design challenge: What are the design principles around which we want to build our companies and to live our lives?
Learning and Change
In an economy of ideas, the only way to keep leading is to keep changing. If you want to win big, you have to think differently. You can’t expect to do great things in the marketplace simply by doing things a little better than the competition.
It is a principle of success here at Fast Company: “Nobody wins unless everybody wins.” The new world of work has given rise to a miraculous creation of wealth: exciting new industries, fast-growing companies, stunning personal fortunes. Less visible are the millions of people who don’t yet have a seat at the table. Those who have the talent to succeed in the new economy have a responsibility to address its harsh side effects.
We present these six themes and these 16 people in order to demonstrate what it means to be fast. We’ve worked hard to interpret as well as to chronicle these people’s accomplishments. We hope that you will draw your own lessons from these stories — that they will help you to accelerate your own development and to heighten your impact on the world around you.