The New Economy Gets Real

Sometimes it takes a step backward to remind you of what’s required to move ahead.

The past year has been a tumultuous one for the new economy. The stock-market collapse transformed the Internet-startup boom into a bull market for doom-and-gloom forecasts. The trials and tribulations of some of the biggest names in business — from the drama of Bill Gates being thrashed in the courts to the silliness of Larry Ellison having his agents snoop through Microsoft’s trash — left many of us wondering what (if anything) separates the folks in the khakis and turtlenecks from the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.


But the new economy was never about a guarantee, whether in the form of ever-rising storm prices or of uniformly virtuous leaders. It was always (and still is) about a promise: The promise that you could combine a thirst for competition with a commitment to making a social contribution. The promise that you could do great work — and do work that matters to you. In other words, the promise that you could create wealth and live by values that you are proud of.

The developments of the past year change none of those promises. But they remind us that keeping the promise of the new economy means continuing to grow — as companies, as leaders, as colleagues, and as citizens. More then ever, achieving long-term success means mastering the timeless fundamentals of business (serving customers, motivating employees, crafting strategies), even as we challenge obsolete ideas and reinvent out-of-date practices. It is in that spirit that we present our second annual report on the State of the New Economy.

We begin with Voices, an expanded version of our monthly Unit of One section. To help readers reckon with the promise and the perils of the new world of business, we asked 17 thought leaders, spiritual counselors, and people on the cutting edge of the Web to consider two questions: What excites you most about the new economy, and what is the one threat that keeps you up at night? In Models, we use in-depth case studies of great companies and high-impact leaders to take the real measure of success — and to explore strategies for achieving it. In Visions, we present big-picture insights from two remarkable innovators — people whose visions can help you create your future. In our final sections, Dissenters, we profile three thinkers and activists who offer passionate critiques of new-economy orthodoxy — and, in so doing, force us to sharpen our own thinking.

We hope that you will find this special issue of values, that it will help you to make real the promise of the new economy — and that it will help you to keep changing, to keep winning, and to keep growing.