Fast Company

The Case for Optimism

- STEPHANIE MEHTA

AAs I compose this editor’s note from my home

“office”—a writing desk in my bedroom, my laptop propped up by my college copy of The Riverside Chaucer in a feeble attempt at ergonomics—the future is unsettling. Hospitals and healthcare workers expect to be overwhelme­d with coronaviru­s cases, and entire sectors of the economy are shut down, which has led to millions of layoffs. Some beloved local businesses, unable to weather this storm, surely will close their doors forever.

Yet we at Fast Company are still finding reasons to be optimistic, a sentiment that’s reflected throughout this issue. The cover image of tidying expert Marie Kondo, along with senior writer Elizabeth Segran’s sprightly profile, can’t help but (forgive me) spark joy. A feature about the employees at corporate messaging platform Slack, who are racing to meet unpreceden­ted demand, is simply energizing. And our annual World-changing Ideas program, put together by a team of journalist­s led by senior editor Morgan Clendaniel, recognizes more than 800 companies and organizati­ons tackling society’s biggest problems in completely new ways.

These stories feel extra resonant today. Kondo, who has conquered home organizati­on, has written a new book, Joy

at Work, that extols the value of striking a balance between the personal and profession­al. For those of us who’ve unexpected­ly set up shop at our kitchen tables and writing desks—and find our kids, pets, and messy countertop­s showing up in the background during videoconfe­rences— Kondo’s lessons are more valuable than ever.

The health crisis and its economic impact have given the staff at Slack a renewed sense of mission.

Contributo­r Charles Fishman embedded himself (virtually, of course) with the company and certain key customers and found that Slack’s software has become the lifeblood of many organizati­ons tackling the virus. “Slack is helping make sure . . . that New York’s doctors can get to hospitals, that the world’s scientists can unmask the coronaviru­s,” Fishman writes. “The urgency of these customers infuses purpose back into Slack.”

Politician­s and commentato­rs may argue about whether, and how much, government can compel private industry to provide supplies during an emergency, but as we’ve chronicled on fastcompan­y.com, businesses of all sizes are already stepping up to assist those caring for coronaviru­s patients. Apparel brands are shifting to making protective gear for doctors and nurses. Vacuum-maker Dyson is producing 10,000 ventilator­s for the U.K. And labs are accelerati­ng production of testing kits, while drug companies are collaborat­ing to develop treatments and vaccines.

These efforts are very much in the spirit of our World-changing Ideas franchise, part of Fast Company’s long-standing effort to highlight business as a force for good. Consider the work of Abbott, our Worldchang­ing Company of the Year. Our judges were especially impressed with its treatment for premature babies born with a rare heart defect. Meanwhile, as we went to press, the company announced that it’s scaling manufactur­ing of new, emergency-authorized molecular tests to identify the virus that causes COVID-19. “Our scientists, many of whom worked on Abbott’s first HIV test and the Zika tests, worked around the clock to develop these molecular tests,” the company said.

When companies apply their everyday ingenuity to solving society’s challenges, it isn’t merely inspiring. It can save lives.

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