Archives: November 2005

I Disagree!

From Taipei (the Vice President of the country) to Memphis (senior national church official), I've been pushed hard/hounded lately to turn my attention to the non-profit and public sectors. (Part of it may be Drucker's passing; he spent a lot of energy on non-profits.) I surely agree with the abiding importance of the non-commercial spheres. And in fact, as a government veteran (6 years in the Navy and White House), I've probably addressed over 100 gov't groups in the last 20 years.

But while trying not to sound defensive, I want to offer a defense. I have carefully re-examined my work over the last quarter century, starting with In Search of Excellence, and I can find almost nothing that does not apply ... one-for-one .... to the non-profit and public spheres.

Consider the "guiding premise" and the "eight basics" that were the heart of In Search of Excellence (chapters 4 through 12): "Managing Ambiguity and Paradox"; "A Bias for Action"; "Close to the Customer"; "Autonomy and Entrepreneurship"; "Productivity Through People"; "Hands On, Value-Driven"; "Stick to the Knitting"; "Simple Form, Lean Staff"; "Simultaneous Loose-Tight Properties" (tight adherence to a couple of key/visionary values, otherwise enormous latitude for down-the-line initiative).

While about 20 percent of the companies Bob Waterman and I chose in 1982 have faltered (investing in 1982 in our "portfolio," according to Forbes, would have made you a rich man/woman by 2002, the book's 20th anniversary), the "basics" have held up surprisingly well—perhaps because they are "simply" universals. ("Universals" that Bob and I felt had fallen into disuse in the "Quantitative Age" that dominated in the 50s through 70s.) Today, the closer I bring my magnifying glass, the more I think all eight/nine of these Guiding Notions are absolutely & unequivocally applicable to non-profit and public enterprise; and that their abiding absence is as deleterious to non-profit and public enterprise effectiveness as to private-sector effectiveness. (In recent times, think FEMA vs the U.S. Coast Guard in the wake of Katrina. Think, in NGO world, about micro-finance aimed directly at an impoverished populace vs giant World Bank projects that seem mostly to have lined the pockets of corrupt politicians in recipient countries.)

Going farther (if less systematically), on a recent trip from DC to Boston, thinking about "all this," I simply jotted down a few words that have been central to my thought and also my "point of difference" with most other theorists, including, frequently, Drucker: Technicolor, Enthusiasm. Energy. Respect. Listening. Grace. Cause (worth getting up for). Caring. "Thank you" (recognition). Action, action, action. Experimentation, experimentation, experimentation. Quick prototypes. Excellent failures. Fast failures (he who has the most tries usually wins). MBWA (managing by wandering around). Empowerment. Customer intimacy. Decentralization. Accountability. Integrity. Truth-telling. Truth or consequences. Relatively small is relatively beautiful. Widespread entrepreneurial behavior. WOW! Weird! Gasp-worthy! Insanely great! Love! Design (great). Women (as leaders). No barriers (to communication or action). Staggering "value-added." "Beautiful" systems. (See the pdf version, available at this site, of Tom's 60 TIBs—my bedrock beliefs, for once in brief.)

Or consider this single slide, on love, from my recent, updated "Leadership50" Special Presentation:

"Message: Leadership is all about love: Passion, Enthusiasms, Appetite for Life, Engagement, Commitment, Great Causes & Determination to Make a Damn Difference, Shared Adventures, Bizarre Failures, Growth, Insatiable Appetite for Change."

I could go on ... and am sorely tempted to. But I'll stop. I've either made my point. Or not. I believe (fervently) in the profit principle, am a fanatic capitalist. But I also fervently believe that the capitalist dream comes true and profit is maximized when ... turned-on people are empowered to dream big and produce awesome products and service experiences for their customers and communities. And that "meta"-idea, profit excepted, applies as well to the non-profit and public sectors as to the private sector.


(I could well/may well spend more time in the future on the public and non-profit sectors, but I'd be surprised, even stunned, if my basic ideas and approaches changed much or at all.)

Not Indifferent!

Susan and I had a rather boisterous and extended argument over pretty much nothing last night. How sad to take notes on a spousal argument, but in the end I yam what I yam. Actually the note, on a scrap torn from the Rutland Herald, "merely" said "not indifferent."

Temper soothed, I got to thinking about it, and one thing I thought is I'd like that on my tombstone: "Tom Peters. Not Indifferent." (No rush.) That is, that's most of what I've offered over the years. Often as not my "axioms" were not original (nothing new under the sun, etc.), but I put them forward with a visible/vocal determination that brooked little dissent. Customer is King. People are All. Women Rule! (Etc.) At a recent conference in Sydney, my pal Anita Roddick, who followed me to the podium, said in the Green Room just before she went on stage, "'Raging enthusiasm.' That's what you sell ... no matter what the topic." I guess that's true. I am "not indifferent," and do not open my mouth about a topic unless I feel it's worth going to the mat for. Make "every" project a "Wow Project"! "Every," you say; "that's nutty." Answer: I damn well do mean "every" ... why else, at 63, would I have bothered to fly 12,000 miles or so to Sydney. Moreover (I admit it), I think anyone who doesn't "get it"—in 2005—is a bloomin' idiot.

"Not indifferent." Sorry, Susan. I will try to "curb my enthusiasm" at inappropriate times ... but not bloody likely to occur.

TP Day at inBubbleWrap

Our friends at 800CEORead have put together a venture called inbubblewrap where they are currently offering free books—and other goodies—to people who sign up at their site. And today, five lucky folks have a chance to win a copy of Tom's beautifully designed Sixty as well as a bucketful of other books and paraphernalia. Cost? Your email. Value? Priceless, of course. Check it out.

Cool Friend: Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil has a great deal to talk about, and we're glad he spent some time talking with Erik to become our new Cool Friend. Discussion centered around Kurzweil's new book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, but took off in many directions. Read the interview here. You should also take a minute or two to visit his website to see all the projects Kurzweil is involved with. They're fascinating!


Tom has polished two PowerPoint presentations that we posted last week. You can keep up-to-date with the revisions by downloading them here: Dramatic Difference, the 1-hour version, and Transformational Change. Enjoy!

Signing Up Rich Karlgaard

Just added nouveau blogger Rich Karlgaard to our Blog Roll. Rich, Publisher of Forbes magazine, is an old pal—and a wise and energetic commentator on the New Economy, assuming it's okay (again?) to use that term. (It's very okay by me. Always was.) Among many other things, social commentator Dinesh D'Souza, in his 2000 book The Virtue of Prosperity, called Rich, George Gilder, and me chief cheerleaders for what D'Souza labeled the "Party of Yeah"—vociferous advocates of the sweeping impact of the then-emergent new economy. I can't think of any duo I'd rather be paired with. Rich's new blog at is titled "Digital Rules" (that's also the title of his bi-weekly commentary at the magazine). We've listed it on our Blog Roll as "Rich Karlgaard/Forbes." Welcome aboard, Rich.

Not Too Bad! (Not Too Good.)

Just finished a brief phone ordering frenzy for Christmas. (Far earlier than usual; not sure what got into me.) Here's the scorecord, ranked: #1Tied, Sharper Image. Answer very quickly (1st ring—salesperson answers). Minimum of required information. Everything (4 items) in stock. Duration: less than 3 minutes. #1T, Territory Ahead. Answer very quickly (same as Sharper Image). Info collection dragged out. Everything in stock—7 items. Duration: "about" 7 minutes; email confirmation within 180 seconds (no one else offered an email confirmation). #3T, LL Bean. Answered very quickly. No items (three) in stock. (Typical of Bean in my experience.) #3T, PBS Home Video. On hold for over 3 minutes; quit. (Ah, alas, so predictable, eh?)

Not all bad. On the other hand, given the early date and time of call (noon, Tuesday), not all that great. If you wonder why I didn't do this online, perhaps the repeated experience of getting 90 percent of the job done, then being derailed by a glitch. Frankly, the phone is still easier, at least at this early date.

Greatest sadness: LL Bean, love of my childhood, continues, year-after-year, to come up (very) short.

Blue + ? = Green

Technology, culture and behavior seem to evolve together. Years ago, we started to see people walking through airports talking on cellphones with headsets. In order not to seem like wierdos talking to themselves, these folks would routinely hold the headset microphone to their mouths, so you could clearly see that they were on the phone.

Then people dropped their hands from their headsets, assuming you'd know they were on the phone because of the cord dangling from their ear. After a while, the introduction of the bluetooth headset took away that cord, but by then nobody was self-conscious anymore, and it became commonplace to see people walking through airline terminals talking without shame to an unseen companion.

But now, at least for men, social norms have relaxed to a new level. Many times in the past year I've walked into an airport men's room and seen a lone man standing at a bank of urinals, actively engaged in a hands-free conversation with someone hundreds of miles away, presumably with a hidden bluetooth headset in his ear. These people inevitably speak in extra loud voices, as people speaking on cell phones in public often do. So, it's hard not to hear about the latest deal they're trying to close, or the new investment idea they're discussing.

I guess the call of the greenback makes it difficult to wait two minutes to make the call. After all, cash is king. But, I personally refuse to take part in this latest cultural development. And, I'll hang up on anyone who calls me if I hear the sounds of the airport bathroom in the background.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Indulge! Overeat! Overhug! Boys: Look up from the TV football, once an hour, just for a quick smile ... even if it kills you. (My closest friend leaves the TV on all day no sound at all.)

Say a special prayer for all of our young women and young men in harm's way on T'day.


Done! My "Fall Tour" ended in San Antonio last Friday. Final stats: 71 days. 29 speeches/seminars. 11 countries. 12 states. 121,000 miles.

River Walk. 71 speed walks in 71 days. Last one ... River Walk in San Antonio ... was as good as it gets, especially in the quiet of 4:30 A.M. It was particularly speedy, as I was accompanied by a fabulous Didgeridoo CD I got in Sydney.

Real Orlando. Wednesday was my introduction to Orlando. In fact, my first trip to Orlando! Of course I'd been to the "other orlando," or "disney orlando," on many an occasion. But, courtesy my SunTrust Banks hosts, this was my first visit to the real/old city. It was lovely, as were the Real Orlandans I met.

Now ... VT for Thanksgiving!