As you've probably noticed, this issue of Inc. is a lot different from the one before, in look and in organization. In a minute, I'll tell you a little more about the new design, which I think represents a significant leap forward in how we at Inc. serve you.
But first, let me introduce this month's cover story, which is one of the most challenging and fascinating we've done in a while. The topic is leadership--that often gratifying, sometimes terrifying, and never optional job that comes with founding a company.
A great deal of claptrap has been written on the topic, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman made clear to me in a recent interview. Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, won a Nobel Prize for his research into the way people instinctively misinterpret reality. A prime example, he says, is the coverage of leadership in business magazines. I kept waiting for him to say, "Except for Inc., of course." He didn't.
Every business publication tries to explain why some companies succeed and others don't. The default technique, observes Kahneman, is to focus on the leader: Failure becomes a tale of the boss's flaws, success a tribute to his or her virtues.
Such stories tend to gloss over factors such as competitors, the economic environment, and most of all, luck. Ignoring the messy uncertainties of business, we treat success as if it were the inevitable result of the leader's character.
Everyone knows that's not the whole truth, but it doesn't matter. We want to understand what creates success, and the explanation that always makes intuitive sense is the leader's character. Never mind that most successful entrepreneurs also sometimes fail.
If the company is succeeding, we tend to say the leader is bold and decisive; if the company is struggling, we might characterize those same traits as reckless and impulsive. "The problem is, the stories you tell are better than reality," says Kahneman. "It doesn't sound right to say, 'The firm is successful, but its CEO is a fool.' Or, 'The firm is failing, but the leader is the best there could be.'
We are prone to believe the firm succeeds because the leader is decisive, when in fact, the leader seems decisive because the firm is succeeding." It's an example of what Kahneman calls the "illusion of understanding." Working back from success, we mine the story for traits we already believe lead to success.
Editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan's cover story, "Between Venus and Mars", doesn't do that, which is one of the reasons it's so intriguing. Instead, the story focuses on those who have the best real-time perspective on effective leadership--that is, those being led. The central piece of research is a survey of 64,000 people worldwide who were asked to identify the traits they most want to see in a leader. The answers might just change how you think about leadership.
On your way to Leigh's story, I invite you to stop and notice how Inc. has changed. We changed for a lot of reasons: to better reflect the way you read a magazine; to make it easier for you to find the topics that interest you; and to pack more ideas, data, and perspectives into the same number of pages. And also because it seemed as if it was time to freshen our look.
The new design introduces some new ways of telling stories--such as the decision tree that helps you determine the best crowdfunding site for your company. Or the graphic that compares the cost of manufacturing a sweatshirt in China to making it in the U.S..
With this issue, we also introduce a few new columns written by entrepreneurs. Eric Paley, who runs the Founder Collective venture capital fund, writes for the Launch section. Mark Dwight, founder of Rickshaw Bagworks, is in the Made section. (See below for a primer on the new sections in this issue.)
Additional sections will appear over the course of this year, covering finance, technology, and lessons from the companies of the Inc. 500. Each section will have a mix of short trend stories, columns, and expert interviews. And each will be anchored by the in-depth feature stories you've come to expect from Inc. And, no, our entrepreneur-in-residence, Norm Brodsky, isn't going anywhere.
The June issue is divided into these four sections:
• Launch covers all things related to starting and building a new company.
• Lead delivers advice, trends, and inspirational stories about becoming a more effective leader.
• Made focuses on entrepreneurs who design and manufacture things.
• Innovate is devoted to founders who are breaking new ground.
One more exciting new feature: We've partnered with an innovative media company called Layar, which lets you dig deeper into any story marked by the symbol you see above left. All you have to do is scan the page with your smartphone or tablet. Here's how it works:
1. Go to the iTunes or Android store or layar.com, and download the free Layar app. Install it on your phone or tablet.
2. Find a story marked by the icon. In fact, you can start with this page.
3. Launch the app and hold the phone over the page. Press Scan.
4. Additional content will appear on your device. (In this case, you'll see a video of me introducing the redesign.)
Enough said. It's time to let the new issue speak for itself. Let me know what you think. Drop me a line at the address below, send a tweet to @inc, or leave a comment on our Facebook page.