I agree with Verne Harnish that speed can sometimes be a decisive competitive advantage. It has saved countless gazelles when lions are in the area.
However, as he and Dan Weston would point out, on other occasions, as this brief film clip suggests….
Read Harnish’s Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and learn when — and when not — to rely on speed.
In a recent blog post, Seth Godin observes:
“Like a dream come true”
Choose your dreams carefully.
Everyone is entitled to a dream. It gives us hope, focuses our energy, makes us human.
Sometimes, though, we get sold a dream instead of creating our own.
Is it really every girl’s dream to become a princess, to be chosen by someone of royal birth and to have a $34 million wedding? Or is that the Disney-industrial complex betraying you, selling you short?
I just read that the folks who brought us the Mall of America are going to redo the troubled Xanadu shopping complex in New Jersey and rename it The American Dream. Is this the best we can do? Shop?
Dreams are too important to sell cheap, to give over to some organization trying to make a buck.
* * *
To me, dreams are visions of what could be. We realize that they haven’t happened yet but some dreams are so powerful that they inspire us to make them come true. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offers the best example of such a compelling vision when he concluded his speech on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial.
As for fantasies, they resemble dreams but can cause all manner of serious problems if we delude ourselves to think that what we envision has already happened.
In anticipation of winning a state lottery, many people spend money they don’t have, to buy what they don’t need, using credit cards because they have no cash. Their fantasy is delusional.
All great human achievements began with a bold, compelling dream.
Fantasies are essentially harmless unless perceived to be realities.
The damage they can then do is incalculable. Beware.
Alan M. Webber is an award-winning, nationally-recognized editor, author, and columnist. In 1995, he launched Fast Company magazine, a fresh, dynamic entry in the business magazine category. Headquartered in Boston, MA, the magazine became the fastest growing, most successful business magazine in history. Fast Company won two national magazine awards—one for general excellence, one for design—and Webber was named Adweek’s “Editor of the Year ” in 1999, along with co-founding editor William Taylor. Most recently, he wrote Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self. He has also been active at local, state, and national political levels, serving as policy advisor for the mayor of Portland, Oregon, writing speeches for several governors, and working as special assistant to the United States Secretary of Transportation.
Morris: Before discussing Rules of Thumb, a few general questions. First, when and why did you decide to pursue a career in journalism?
Webber: I’ve always been interested in reporting, writing, and the purposes that good journalism can serve. When I was in high school, I was editor of the high school newspaper, and we wrote editorials calling for our school (a private all-boy’s–and at the time all-white–prep school) to integrate, to accept black students. In college I became the chairman of our college newspaper. This was during the Vietnam War, and we used the newspaper to cover student attitudes to that war, but also to explore the issues on campus that went more deeply into the purposes of a liberal arts education. So I’ve always seen journalism and activism as closely linked.
Morris: Since then, what do you think have been the most significant changes i magazine publication that includes both HBR and Fast Company?
Webber: The world of publishing, in general, has been changing dramatically for the last decade or more. It’s not just the web–although the web has served to disrupt the traditional business model of publishing. It’s also reading habits of different generations, attitudes toward the media and other large institutions, and the overall pace of change that people have to contend with in their daily lives. Obviously, HBR enjoys a privileged position in the magazine world, by virtue of its relationship with the Harvard Business School. The issue there is less one of economic survival, and more of relevance and impact with a business community that will always respect the HBR brand. But will the HBR brand be in touch with and in synch with the changing concerns and composition of the business community? Fast Company, because of its unique DNA as a business magazine devoted to the them of change and innovation, should be relevant forever! But it has to face the changing economic demands of publishing.
At the moment, I’m happy to say, both magazines seem to be meeting their respective challenges head-on.
Morris: Back to HBR, for a moment. What are your fondest memories of that association?
Webber: It’s always the people. When I took over as managing editor under Ted Levitt, we went about the work of re-inventing HBR. Ted was a brilliant marketer, mentor, and writer, so he provided the leadership and the vision to guide us. Then we recruited an almost entirely new team of people to re-invigorate HBR, to re-design the look and feel of the publication, to re-engineer the architecture, the structure of each issue, to bring in new ideas for presenting business thinking to the audience. For quite a few years, we had a terrific team that was excited about creating a new conversation about the direction that business was headed in. In many respects, I think those days helped foster an innovative culture at HBR and re-connected the publication with the larger business audience that was eager to be part of a fresh dialog about how business was changing, how the world was changing, and how the pieces fit together.
Morris: Please explain the process by which you and Bill Taylor co-founded Fast Company in November, 1995.
Webber: Bill and I met at HBR; I was the managing editor and he was the most talented, brilliant, energetic editor on the staff. We began exploring the idea for a new business magazine some time after I got back from a 3-month trip to Japan in 1989-90, where I was exposed to a set of powerful forces that were transforming the world of work. Some of the things I saw could be integrated into HBR, but because of the institutional limits of HBR, some were simply outside the legitimate boundaries of the publication at that time. So in the early 1990s Bill and I started talking informally about what a new magazine could be like. Bill left HBR first, and then when I left around 1993, we got serious about what a new magazine would be like: what it would look like, how it would perform as an editorial product, what we could create that would be exciting and useful, and speak to the dramatic changes going on in business: globalization, technology, the new opportunities for individuals to make a difference in work and through their work. We raised about $550,000 from a fantastic group of first round investors, and in 1993 we put out a “beta” issue. From the feedback we got from that issue, we wrote up a second-round business plan and then showed our work to different publishing companies, looking for a business partner with whom to launch Fast Company for real. Finally we were fortunate to make a deal with Mort Zuckerman and Fred Drasner, who owned U.S. News & World Report and The Atlantic Monthly at that time. The Atlantic was in Boston, where Bill and both lived, so to launch Fast Company we borrowed office space from The Atlantic and ad sales and business staff from U.S. News, making our launch very economical. We hired a small, dedicated staff to put together our first issues, and the first “real” issue of Fast Company came out in 1995. The rest, as they say, is history!
* * *
To read the complete interview, please click here.
Alan Webber invites you to check out these websites:
I’ve been thinking about business, preparing for the expected, and then facing the unexpected…
Many products have faced delays in delivery of products due to the earthquakes/tsunami in Japan.
And now, the tornadoes that have sliced through and devastated portions of cities, specially in Alabama… What will that do to the economy?
(Of course, the first thought, always, is the human loss – and the tragedy of lives snuffed out, some so very young…)
But the ripple effects on the economy also get our attention.
For some reason, I go back to one of the main ideas in The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande:
We have just two reasons that we may fail.
The first is ignorance – we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude – because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about.
For nearly all of history, people’s lives have been governed primarily by ignorance.
When a company faces a problem of its own making, it is the fault of that company. Some ineptitude has crept in, gone unchecked, and now created something between a small problem to great havoc. In this case, the company is to blame, and the company leaders and employees have to learn, quickly and thoroughly, from their mistakes.
But when something happens from “outside” – something the company has no control over, then the company is not to blame. A tornado; a tsunami… these are some things no company can control.
There are a few other such examples that are equally disturbing to business success, like… practically every business is facing the ripple effects of the rising gasoline prices. If the prices continue to rise, then the ripple effects will be a genuine drain on a whole lot of bottom lines. This is not the fault of the company, or its own ineptitude. But the effects may soon be felt in every industry, in every company.
But… on the other hand, I think there is a simple lesson in all of this. Maybe every company needs to spend a little time on “what if the worst happens? Then what do we do” planning.
Because I think I am learning this – there are a whole lot of “what if the worst happens” possibilities out there.