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The Best (and Worst) of Business

A letter from the founding editors.

Months ago, when we started to develop the stories that we would bring to you in our fifth-annual Best of the Best issue, we were clear about what we wanted to focus on: innovative strategies and practices that are reinventing some of the most essential, most traditional, and most famous industries and brands in the world — material that would showcase the very best of what the business world has to offer. We found the story of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, a truly remarkable place that is as much a technology center as it is a health-care facility.

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We focused next on Commerce Bank, the most unconventional bank around — a bank that acts as if it’s not in the banking business but in the retail business, and a company that has registered an astonishing financial performance.

And then we traveled to Dublin, Ireland to Guinness Storehouse, a fun new facility (and now one of the top tourist destinations in Ireland) that is meant to reinvent a very old brand.

But a funny — or not so funny — thing happened on the way to the best of the best: the worst of the worst. For the past few months, newspaper headlines have pounded a different face of business: scandals and bankruptcies, violations of trust and, perhaps, law. All of a sudden, business isn’t romantic — it’s suspect. All of a sudden, business leaders aren’t heroes — they’re villains.

These are dire developments; they’re the flip side of the best of the best. And so, for this year at least, we have added bad business to the best of business. We take you deep inside Enron and explore the struggles of the real men and women in the middle of a mess. And we pose a tough question: What If You’d Worked at Enron? Would you have had the foresight (or the fortitude) to do the right thing? We also offer a special Master Class collection, with a post-Enron, post-Andersen agenda for reform. And, in the spirit of innovation and investigation, we take a special look back at business scandals of the past, at the kinds of roles that seem to appear and reappear with every outbreak of bad business, from the S&L debacle to the Internet bubble. That feature, Scandal As Sequel, is only available here.

This issue’s material reflects Fast Company’s personality, who we are as a magazine, and what we offer our readers. We prefer to look at what’s right, to spotlight innovation and celebrate reinvention. But we also know that much has gone wrong. It’s up to all of us to bring out the best in business — and in ourselves.