Archives: September 2011

New Audio: Tom Reads The Little BIG Things

Tom read The Little BIG Things for the audiobook, and we were given copies of the files. We're posting them section by section. By using the links below, you can download the most recent audio selection, posted 28 September. It's the special section titled "The Heart of Business Strategy":

The Heart of Business Strategy

Sample the audio by means of the link above, or find additional portions of the book on The Little BIG Things book page.

TLBT Video #68
Excellence: It Can Happen Anywhere

Now at YouTube, the latest video of The Little BIG Things Video Series. Tom tells how he found an answer to the question, "But how can what you describe work in my little shop?"

You can find the video in the right-hand column of our front page, or watch it here (Time: 2 minutes 19 seconds). Also available, a PDF transcript of the video's content: Excellence: It Can Happen Anywhere.

News, Notes, and Links.
From All Over.

Cool Friend Dave Balter wrote an article for Inc. magazine about the importance of humility for business leaders. The tidal wave of response prompted him to establish a website to publish people's many stories about humility (and ego) in the workplace. One of Tom's favorite themes, Servant Leadership, is subtly in evidence, and we're happy to nudge you to take a look:

Cool Friend Fred Reichheld introduced his book The Ultimate Question in 2006: "How likely would you be to recommend us to a friend?" Now he has a new book (out today!), written with Rob Markey, The Ultimate Question 2.0., presenting stories of companies "from Apple to Zappos" and how the ultimate question has transformed them.

We've been in communication with Ian Sanders since we shut down our comments section, where he used to be a frequent contributor. He has a new book with coauthor David Sloly, Zoom, which aims to help you jump-start a business in 60 (!) days.

Tom has been using a quote from consultant Adrian Slywotzky for years ("Future-defining customers ... represent a crucial window ..."). Slywotzky has a new book coming out in October, and the title is intriguing: Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It. You can read his preview in Fast Company magazine here.

Another long-time friend of Tom's, Marcus Buckingham, has a new book, StandOut. We suggest you check it out, and you might also want to see where he named Tom's blog one of the Top 10 Management & Leadership Blogs.

Foley & Lardner

Tom remains in Chicago. Today he is addressing members of Foley & Lardner, at their Annual Partners Meeting. The Milwaukee-based law firm has 21 offices and 925 lawyers, and has been operating since 1842 (per Wikipedia).

Foley & Lardner, 15 Sept 2011
Foley & Lardner Long Version, 15 Sept 2011

Discover Network

We used to call them "credit card companies." But the likes of Discover Network (and its rivals) now offer a plethora (that is, a dizzying array) of products and systems under the umbrella of the payments business. Tom's in Chicago today speaking to Discover Network's Acquirer Advisory Council.

Discover Network, Acquirer Advisory Council, 14 September 2011
Discover Network Long Version, 14 September 2011

A First!

"Gawd I do good work."

Nonetheless ...

I rarely say such things, but I think your organizational world would work more effectively if you "obsessed" on those "REALLY First Things Before First Things." Please consider discussing this doc with colleagues.

I really cannot remember the last time—maybe this is the first time?—I have felt so determined about something I've written.

Sorry if the self-promotion puts you off—at least it's for a free product/pdf.

Deloitte Tax 2011 North American Global Conference

Tom is speaking today at the gorgeous Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, for Deloitte Tax LLP at their 2011 North American Global Employer Services Conference.

Deloitte Tax LLP, 12 September 2011
Deloitte Long, 12 September 2011

Excellence Now eBooks

It's no secret that Tom's passion is Excellence. What better subject matter for a series of ebooks, then? We're excited to announce that we're working with New Word City to publish just that: a series of ebooks about Excellence. The series is titled Excellence Now and will cover Excellence throughout a wide range of topics, from innovation to talent to, well, all things Excellent.

We're having a great time experimenting with ways to present Tom's oeuvre in digital format. For now, the ebook series is available for consumption on your iPhone, iPad, and through iTunes on any computer.

Much more digital content is in the works (ebooks, apps, etc.), so check back from time to time. For now, we'll start you off with the eponymous flagship ebook, Excellence Now. It's thoroughly inspirational and beautifully designed. If this doesn't light a fire under you to strive harder for Excellence in your work, we can't imagine what would. Enjoy!

Size Matters

[Our guest blogger is Cool Friend Steve Yastrow. He's an author, speaker, consultant, and we've enjoyed his work for many years. Find out more about him at]

In a recent post, Tom quoted David Lascelles to show how corporate mergers are contrary to nature. Lascelles uses bees as an example, relating that bee colonies split into separate colonies as they grow, before becoming too big. Lascelles says that nature is more about "growth, fragmentation, and dispersal" than it is about merging. "What the bees are telling us is that the corporate world has got it all wrong."

Beyond Lascelles's bees, there is another example, even closer to home, to demonstrate this point: humans.

For about 90% of the 200,000 years we have been anatomically modern humans we lived in bands that maxed out at about 150 people. When our groups started to grow beyond 150 people, we split into smaller groups that then continued to grow on their own, until they once again split. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar says that this number of 150 was meaningful: It represents the maximum number of relationships each of us can have with other people. The "Dunbar Number," as it is called, is a natural limit based on our cognitive capacity. (Dunbar shows that other primates, such as chimps, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas, have proportionally smaller group sizes based on their smaller brains.)

Then, about 12,000 years ago we started to settle down into a sedentary "civilized" lifestyle, and shortly thereafter developed agriculture. This led us to live in larger groups, well past Dunbar's limit of 150 people, eventually leading to the urban centers we see today.

Although we usually think of the transition to agriculture and civilization as wonderful progress, it isn't so simple. In his book, Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, Spencer Wells paints a very vivid picture of the ills that civilized life has brought us. Wells describes archaeological evidence that shows how human size, health, and life expectancy actually decreased after the transition to settled living and agriculture. (Wells says that life expectancy for humans who made it past childhood didn't catch up with hunter-gatherer levels until the 19th century.) He claims that warfare, mental illness, and social strife, in addition to many diseases, are all byproducts of the unnatural situations we have lived in for the past 10,000 years. We evolved to live one way, and now are trying to live another way. What we see every day as our natural setting is, in fact, a very unnatural way for us to live.

So, if we are looking for evidence from nature that our belief in corporate mergers and unchecked growth is misplaced, Lascelles's bees are only the starting point. We can also look into the not-so-distant mirror of our own history and recognize that our real success on this planet has been based on small, nimble groups who "spin off" new groups before growing too big.

Johannesburg in November

Tom will be giving a day-long presentation in November in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our friends at the Business Results Group are putting on a very special day on November 8 that's open to the public. The program is REINVENTING EXCELLENCE! Reinventing Leadership, Talent, Design and Trends. Find out more information here. If you're in the area, you really won't want to miss this rare event!