Archives: June 2005

Ah …

Ahhhhh .... the Borsch in Kiev (Ukranian Borsch with Pampushkas).

Stretching the Beatles' Brand

John O'Leary, who didn't play with the Beatles, but DID play with some of their contemporaries, gives us this entry:

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40 years ago this month the Beatles—already the biggest rock & roll band in the universe—recorded the song "Yesterday." This sweet, melancholic tune—featuring Paul McCartney's plaintive voice accompanied only by acoustic guitar and string quartet—was such a radical change in musical direction for the Beatles that they were afraid to release it as a single in the UK, fearing it would compromise their rock & roll image. Eventually, they released it as a single in the US, and it became a #1 hit, one of the most critically acclaimed ballads in pop music history, and the most recorded song of all time! Interesting turn of events: the group had mixed feelings about releasing a new product, fearing it might dilute the brand, yet it wound up extending the brand. This and subsequent Beatles songs—many of them exquisitely crafted and stunningly creative—earned the band new fans who saw them not so much as cute mop-top rockers, but as pop art Picassos. Pretty good story line here. "A mega-successful organization at the top of its game throws caution to the wind and breaks its own mold with a revolutionary line of new products." One question: why is this the exception in business? A better question: what can your company learn from this?

Titles That Bind

I'm fascinated with the idea of extreme organizational transformation, and I wonder what I would do if I could completely blow up the current model and totally re-invent the corporate workplace. I would focus on two primary areas: the physical environment and job titles. For example, perhaps the CEO and executive board would be on the first floor with the smallest offices and no view because they are seldom there to enjoy them.

My bone to pick with job titles is this ... they are labels that confine people's ability to add value wherever and whenever possible. Titles are the reason people say, "it's not my job" or "what do you know, you're just a (fill in the blank)." A friend related her experience when she switched from HR to Marketing. It was a difficult transition—she was confronted with constant resistance and found herself having to jump through extraordinary hoops to prove herself. Her new boss was obviously willing to "take the risk" on her, but everyone else on the team wondered, "What could you possibly know about marketing, you're an HR person?"

When you become defined by your title, you become limited in terms of what you can do, or what others believe you are capable of. It is because of this that I gave myself the title "Transformation Architect" when I joined the Tom Peters Company ... people have to ask, "What do you do?" My title stays the same, but my answer evolves over time, as I do.

Property and Prosperity

Here's this week's offering from Cool Friend Sally Helgesen. We hope to start a lively discussion with Sally's observation, below:

I am a major fan of Hernando De Soto, the Peruvian economist and author of The Mystery of Capital. De Soto's extensive research leads him to believe that poor countries are poor primarily because their laws do not permit ordinary people to have clear title to private property or predictable control over how that property can be used. There's no title insurance, so ownership is always under threat of dispute, and no one can get a mortgage based on a murky title. As a result, working and middle class people can't increase their wealth in the way they have traditionally done in the US—by owning their homes and businesses. Instead, most property is owned provisionally or even illegally, which means that large numbers of people live off the grid, escaping taxes and pilfering their utilities. Meanwhile, government officials and their cronies have an easy time gaining access to properties they believe are desirable (see Zimbabwe!).

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Cognos

I'm speaking to Cognos today in Orlando. The company, which netted $136M on $825M in sales last year, is a leader in performance management software—e.g., "Enterprise Scorecarding," "Business Intelligence," "Enterprise Planning." In addition to the slides (here) for my morning presentation, I did a "Tom Thing" ... and created yet another list, culling wisdom (hunches, actually) from the last 35 or so years. Hence, "The Planning, Planning Systems, Intelligence & Measures50." Some/most entries will be obvious, others a little obscure—I plan to write this up/flesh it out, as part of what I call "Project05," in July-August.

Happy 25th!

My peerless speaker's bureau (Washington Speakers Bureau) is celebrating its 25th birthday in Alexandria tonight. I've been with them since 1984. Through the uncommon virtues of "loyalty, trust and treating people right" they have re-imagined, and in some sense created, a New Industry. The role of speakers in assisting businesses has changed and expanded dramatically in the last quarter century—and I've been lucky enough to be part of it. Tonight, I'll say thanks as a featured speaker along with Coach Lou Holtz, Hizzoner Rudy Giuliani and General/Secretary Colin Powell.

Confidence

If you haven't been reading Andrew Sullivan lately, do it. He's been covering the Downing Street Memo story. Here's a quote he points to and I'll bet you can't name the source:

Your government has unmistakable confidence in your ability to hear the worst, without flinching or losing heart. You must, in turn, have complete confidence that your government is keeping nothing from you except information that will help the enemy in his attempt to destroy us.

This Is Getting Ridiculous

I don't want to sound like a complete brownnoser, but let's get real here, and let me state for the record something that should be no news to anyone, I am obviously a BIG Tom Peters fan.

Lately, nearly every business magazine I pick up has a big splashy "late-breaking news" type cover article about a subject Tom has been writing about for YEARS, if not DECADES! This issue of BusinessWeek about Design is just one more drop in this familiar bucket.

Is it just me, or do you get this "déjà vu all over again" feeling reading the business press as well?

Toronto!

In the 60s I dated a woman getting a degree at the University of Toronto. The school was great, but the city was the pits. Today, Toronto is a glorious, "with it" global metropolis. Bloor Street, where I am, is as good as the Mag Mile in Chicago.

Here to speak to the Graduate Management Admissions Council ... mostly admissions officers for MBA programs. Given my publicly known low opinion of MBAs, it's hard to figure why they invited me. Nonetheless, I'll try my best.

Only prob: temp today to go to 34C, with humidity taking the heat factor to 41C equivalent; tomorrow 38C. Yikes. (VT to get 98F tomorrow. Global broiling, anyone?)

NB: Yesterday, the Canadian gov't announced they were splitting the health department in two. The traditional bit will focus on fixing broken things. The other will be devoted Wellness & Prevention. With all the problems in Canadian healthcare, I see this as a great move!

Event slides: GMAC

Tom is speaking at the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) Annual Industry Conference today in Toronto. These are the folks who developed the General Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and who provide support for business schools throughout the world. Get the slides here.