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Cool Defined

April 1, 1998
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Featured Article
Let's face it: Although cool is ubiquitous, it's an imprecise term. The way it's used depends a great deal on what it's being used to describe. A cool pair of sunglasses, for example, is very different from a cool Web site. Or is it? Workforce asked several people to define cool in the corporate sense and found, interestingly enough, that their answers weren't that far apart:

"Cool is being redefined from how you look to how you think. Cool is about intelligence and innovation. It's about the ability to change, impact, innovate and collaborate. It's about throwing away the traditional ways of doing business and finding a new way. It's about getting out of your comfort zone."
-- Margie Mader, director of bringing in the cool people, Netscape Communications Corp., Mountain View, California

"For something to be cool, there has to be an element of avant-garde attached to it. It has to be ahead of the times somehow, or breaking ground in some kind of new way."
-- Robert Levering, founder, Great Place to Work Institute, San Francisco, and author with Milton Moskowitz of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for in America

"Cool, to me, means a couple of things. Cool is the late '90s word for copacetic ... as in, 'That's cool with me.' But it also refers to an environment in which people can express themselves, where there aren't rules for the sake of rules or formality for the sake of formality."

"Cool isn't big enough of a word to capture what I think is cool. Cool companies respect human beings, their disposition and the way the human mind works. Nothing about cool is conforming. Cool respects the individual."
-- Jerry Hirshberg, president, Nissan Design International Inc., San Diego

"Cool speaks to those of us who rebel against the corporate culture, but who are content to stay within the corporation. Cool companies are those that have found a way to make the corporate culture mean something to people who's life is dominated by work."

Workforce, April 1998, Vol. 77, No. 4, pp. 56.

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