It All Starts With a Good Idea

Fast Company - - From The Editor - ERIC SCHURENBERG ed­i­tor@fast­com­pany.com

Faced with a hous­ing short­age of cri­sis pro­por­tions, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, de­cided not to wait for the mar­ket to sort things out. Not that the mar­ket seems up to the job, any­way: Nearly a third of L.A. res­i­dents al­ready spend more than half their in­come on rent. Garcetti’s idea: to use the pow­ers of his of­fice to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the city’s hous­ing stock, by build­ing, among other things, the in­ge­nious homes known as ac­ces­sory dwelling units. ADUS are free-stand­ing bun­ga­lows that have roughly the same square footage as two-bed­room apart­ments, and that fit—here’s the mind-bend­ing part—into ex­ist­ing back­yards. Nei­ther banks nor builders nor zon­ing reg­u­la­tors were ready for ADUS, but Garcetti jaw­boned the for­mer and pol­i­ticked the lat­ter into sup­port­ing them. Now the af­ford­able lit­tle home­lets make a po­ten­tial land­lord out of any An­ge­leno with a back­yard, while pro­vid­ing over­crowded fam­i­lies with safe, le­gal hous­ing. And for L.A., the path from sprawl to a post-sub­ur­ban fu­ture just got a lit­tle clearer.

Solv­ing a big-city cri­sis with itty-bitty houses: It’s in­no­va­tion in ser­vice of the good, or what we at Fast Com­pany—un­der the lead­er­ship of se­nior ed­i­tor Mor­gan Clen­daniel—have been cel­e­brat­ing since 2014 as World-chang­ing Ideas. You’ll find a se­lec­tion of this year’s 240 hon­orees (cho­sen by a panel of judges from close to 1,400 sub­mis­sions) start­ing on page 68, and you can view the full ros­ter on fast­com­pany.com. Garcetti’s ADU ini­tia­tive is on the list, of course, as is a new biodegrad­able preg­nancy test and a prob­lem-solv­ing method­ol­ogy that uses de­sign think­ing to spark con­ver­sa­tion—and find so­lu­tions—across racial di­vides. All are proof that in de­ter­mined hands, a cre­ative idea has the power to make the world a safer, health­ier, more just, less pol­luted place.

A sim­i­lar faith in busi­ness as a force for good drives the larg­erthan-life restau­ra­teur, hu­man­i­tar­ian, and Trump gad­fly José An­drés (page 86), founder of the Think­food­group restau­rant em­pire. As Matthew Shaer notes in his nu­anced pro­file, An­drés is a com­plex blend of culi­nary artistry, al­tru­ism, im­pul­sive­ness, and celebrity, and it’s some­times hard to tell which fla­vor will dom­i­nate at any given mo­ment. But mea­sured by both busi­ness suc­cess and so­cial im­pact, the An­drés recipe works.

And then there’s this month’s cover story, about Twit­ter (page 58), re­ported in a her­culean joint ef­fort by se­nior writer Austin Carr and se­nior tech ed­i­tor Harry Mccracken, and with next to no help from the com­pany. The so­cial me­dia plat­form might best be de­scribed as a world-chang­ing idea that failed to rec­og­nize how quickly its world was chang­ing. As Mccracken and Carr tell it, the com­pany’s lead­ers let them­selves be lulled into smug­ness by early suc­cess and dis­tracted by an IPO, fail­ing to see how their prod­uct had been twisted into some­thing ugly by un­scrupu­lous users. Now CEO Jack Dorsey and his team are strug­gling, with un­even re­sults, to get the trolls back un­der the bridge. The out­come of that fight will af­fect us all.

One world-chang­ing idea: Al­le­vi­ate Los Angeles’s big-city hous­ing woes by build­ing small homes on ex­ist­ing lots.

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