Fast Company November 2021

Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, leadership, world changing ideas, and design. Written for, by, and about the most progressive business leaders, Fast Company inspires readers to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations, and create the future of business.

United States
Mansueto Ventures LLC
6 Issues

in this issue

1 min
the amazon effect

It is hard to overstate Amazon’s influence on global business right now. When the company raises its U.S. average starting pay, as it did in September, it puts wage pressure on nearly every American business with hourly workers—from fast-food chains to manufacturers. Consumer packaged goods companies increasingly rely on “the everything store” for distribution, even as they also compete with Amazon’s cheaper house brands, such as Goodthreads and Wag. But wait! Amazon’s ubiquitous computing infrastructure arm can provide these frenemies-and just about any business-with analytics, forecasting, and other data tools. Amazon’s impact on corporate operations and culture is so sprawling that our editors felt it warranted an encyclopedic approach. Our A-to-Z guide seeks to capture this powerful company’s current scope, as well as its ambitions, from the bold (stitching together an…

1 min
from the editor.

Now imagine if Ford also leased out its assembly lines-and that became its most profitable business. And say its dealers could also sell bikes and mattresses and massage guns, which Ford could store and deliver. And it made movies. That would get you closer to the Amazon of today. All this influence has attracted the attention of regulators, most notably FTC chair Lina Khan, who has suggested that Amazon’s “structure and conduct” pose anticompetitive concerns. Sustainability experts fret about the company’s impact on the planet. And though Amazon has raised wages and offers robust retraining programs and free college tuition, former employees and unions say working conditions for drivers and warehouse staff are particularly punishing. For all its tentacles, Amazon’s enduring contribution to business will be its role in accelerating the digitization…

6 min
big tech won’t save us

Last year, one of the major browser companies launched a new incubator whose stated mission was to invest in startups that aspire to “fix the internet.” For Tracy Chou, who had founded a company, Block Party, which makes anti-harassment tools that aim to do exactly that, applying seemed like a natural fit-but for one thing. Earlier in her career, she’d had several uncomfortable encounters with one of the program’s architects-the sort of unwanted attention that was practically a rite of passage for Silicon Valley women. The opportunity seemed too good to pass up, but Chou’s skepticism proved to be well founded. When she joined the incubator, last summer, a mentor she found “condescending and aggressive” pushed her to scrap her deliberate, gated approach to bringing in new users. At Block Party,…

2 min
modern problems

ALGORITHMIC BIAS How it started A 2018 paper by MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini exposed skin-tone bias in facial-recognition tech, and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, in 2020, Big Tech either halted (IBM) or paused (Amazon) selling these AI services. How it’s going In May, Lemonade, the AI-powered insurance firm, boasted it could identify fraud by analyzing customers on video, sparking backlash about profiling. Police forces still assess citizens using predictive-policing AI. GENDER DIVERSITY How it started Big tech companies like Apple refused to release their workplace demographics until pressured (by Tracy Chou and others) to do so, starting in 2014. How it’s going Slow! Apple, for example, has grown its “global female representation” from 30% to 34% between 2014 and 2020. In technical roles, women made up 23% of the team in 2020, up from 18% in…

2 min
fake everything

What would have, until recently, seemed like sci-fi is now reality: Chicken grown from cells in a bioreactor is already on a restaurant menu in Singapore. A new facility in Israel will be able to churn out enough cell-based meat to make 5,000 animal-free beef burgers a day. More than 700 companies are now working on nextgeneration alternatives for traditional animal products, with the aim to improve animal welfare and help shrink the carbon footprint of the food chain. Investors poured a record $3.1 billion into the alternative protein industry in 2020. Though there are challenges-a 3D-printed steak still doesn’t look quite like a steak-it’s increasingly possible to engineer versions of food that seem indistinguishable from traditional farm-raised fare. Technology makes it possible to program microbes to become “cell factories”…

7 min
know when to hold ’em

AS THEATERS AROUND THE U.S. shuttered their doors in March 2020, Donna Langley needed to save her movies. The Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman of two years acted swiftly, pushing back the release of the latest installments of the Fast & Furious and James Bond franchises. She made other films available on streaming services for a premium; Trolls World Tour ended up pulling in $100 million in three weeks that April, more than the original Trolls movie earned during five months in theaters. Luckily, Langley, 53, is used to taking risks. The British film executive built a career making expensive bets on seemingly niche movies that found wide audiences-including Pitch Perfect, Straight Outta Compton, and Get Out (see sidebar, next page). Here’s how she walks the line between art and…