Tom’s Bio

Mr. Peters is an enthusiast, a storyteller, and a lover of capitalism. He says that effective management is management that delivers more value to customers and more opportunity for service, creativity and growth to workers. He is saying that the decent thing to do is also the smart thing. It’s a wonderful message.”Paul Weaver, The Wall Street Journal

In no small part, what American corporations have become is what Peters has encouraged them to be.”The New Yorker

Peters is the father of the post-modern corporation.”Los Angeles Times

We live in a Tom Peters world.”Fortune

In Tom’s world it’s always better to try a swan dive and deliver a colossal belly flop than to step timidly off the board while holding your nose.”Fast Company

Tom Peters is the Red Bull of management thinkers.”Bo Burlingham, Inc.

Tom Peters is the most provocative, engaging (as well as annoying and threatening) management guru running loose in America today.”CBS MarketWatch

If they’re onto a good thing, management gurus generally milk the same business mantra for all its worth. However, one guru par excellence is going against the grain. The one-man brand that is Tom Peters is still reinventing himself.”

The single best management book I’ve ever read.”Warren Bennis on Tom’s most recent book, The Little BIG Things

Fortune magazine called Tom Peters the “Ur-guru” of management (he doesn’t know what that means either) and compares him to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and H.L. Mencken. And the Economist tagged him the “Uber-guru.” The Bloomsbury Press book, Movers and Shakers: The 100 Most Influential Figures in Modern Business, reviewed the historical contributions of management thinkers and practitioners, from Machiavelli and J.P. Morgan to Peters and Jack Welch. The summary entry on Peters’ impact: “Tom Peters has probably done more than anyone else to shift the debate on management from the confines of boardrooms, academia, and consultancies to a broader, worldwide audience, where it has become the staple diet of the media and managers alike. Peter Drucker has written more and his ideas have withstood a longer test of time, but it is Peters—as consultant, writer, columnist, seminar lecturer, and stage performer—whose energy, style, influence, and ideas have shaped new management thinking.”

Without much doubt, Drucker and Peters have shaped the idea of modern management more than any others over the last six decades. Drucker is said to have “invented” management as a discipline worthy of study—In particular, he gave management of large firms the essential tools to deal with their post-World War II enormity, complexity and growing global reach. Peters, in turn, led the way in preparing management for the current era of staggering change, starting in the mid-1970s—and accelerating to this day.

“Excellence” has long been associated with the likes of athletics, science and the arts. But rarely (if ever!) with business. Tom Peters and Bob Waterman changed all that with the publication of In Search of Excellence in 1982. They put the word and aspiration of excellence into the business lexicon—and so it remains, though all too often unfulfilled, 33 years later.

In Search of Excellence has been granted every accolade imaginable in almost every country imaginable; e.g., the book was honored in 1999 by National Public Radio (USA) as one of the “Top Three Business Books of the Century,” ranked “greatest business book of all time” in a poll by UK’s Bloomsbury Publishing—and, astoundingly, was the most widely held book in USA libraries from 1989 to 2006. Forbes magazine’s publisher went even further: “It’s often debated whether Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts or Paul Volcker’s monetary medicine got the U.S. off its back in the eighties. The answer is both, but let’s add a third and fourth reason. Third was the personal computer, introduced by Apple and others in the 1970s and made acceptable to business buyers by IBM in 1981. The PC was more than a machine. It was a garden of entrepreneurship that produced such daring men as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. A fourth reason was a book that came out in 1982 and turned out to be the bestselling business book of the decade: In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman. Yes, I am claiming that a single book belongs up there with tax cuts, a strong dollar and the PC as a pillar of the American renaissance.”

The book-that-launched-a-management-revolution-and-so-much-more in turn launched Peters on a tireless, approximately 5-million mile, 67-country, 3-thousand speech campaign to instill the “excellence principles” throughout the world. Along the way, in addition to converts (and adversaries) and frequent flyer miles, he has produced, among other things, another 20 or so books and eBooks, hundreds of articles in newspapers and journals, thousands of blogposts, and 10s of thousands of tweets relentlessly selling the basic ideas of: people first (investment #1/talent-as-brand/all-out push for matchless “excellence-in-training”), action and experimentation instead of talk and elaborate plans (hallmarked by the celebration of “fast failures” that accelerate learning), extreme customer integration and intimacy, unfailingly in-touch management (MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around—the lodestone of In Search of Excellence), listening-as-core value #1, far more women in senior leadership roles and acknowledging products and services aimed at women as marketing opportunity #1 (by a long shot), attending to the booming and still under-served boomer-geezer market, the primacy of design/a “design culture” as a virtually unstoppable competitive advantage, the lead role of middle-sized “niche-dominating” companies in economic development, the need to aggressively embrace technology including no-holds-barred engagement in and exploitation of social media—and, always, the unwavering imperative of no less than a standard of “Excellence-in-all-we-do”/“Excellence-one-minute-at-a-time.”

Peters has long insisted that breaking the mold/destroying the mold is imperative. He preached preemptive internal “disruption” 25 years before it became popular, with an unbroken string of in-your-face books such as Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution, Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties, The Tom Peters Seminar: Crazy Times Call For Crazy Organizations, The Pursuit of Wow: Every Person’s Guide to Topsy-Turvy Times, The Brand You 50: Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself From an “Employee” into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion (Peters predicted in 1999 in a Time cover story that “90 percent of white-collar jobs as we know them will be destroyed or transformed beyond recognition within 15 years”), and Re-Imagine: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age. His company logo is a bright red exclamation mark—and he forcefully declaims on the likes of an abiding sense of urgency and relentless commitment to progress via lightening fast trial-and-error, no less than daily attention to workforce skill enhancement, and the development of projects and products and services that meet the Steve Jobs “insanely great” standard.

Tom has not let the madness of the times steamroller him. Among other things, his social media presence is unprecedented among the management expert class. His blog and twitter presence (marked by 125,000 “followers”) have earned him a place on and often at the top of literally dozens of “best of” lists. Swiss think tank GDI/Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and MIT created “Thought Leaders 2014: The Most Influential Thinkers,” a listing of “Who is influencing what we think today?” In the “algorithmically-determined ranking,” engagement in the “blogosphere,” “twittersphere,” and Wikipedia page citations across languages were among the many variables considered. Pope Francis & Tim Berners-Lee were #1 & #2. Tom placed #32, just behind Ray Kurzweil & Oliver Sacks and just ahead of Steven Pinker, Jaron Lanier, E.O. Wilson & Thomas Friedman.

As the years roll by, many have commented that Tom’s energy and passion seem to increase rather than decrease. “I don’t do rocket science,” he says, “I preach the obvious, and my frustration at the slowness in adopting these ideas is a source of immense irritation—and supreme motivation. They’re going to have to drag me off the field—I will never slow down or calm down or give in or give up. For companies and careers and the economy as a whole, this is effectively life-or-death stuff.”

The stats: Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1942 on the day the Allies landed in North Africa, Peters resided in California, mainly Silicon Valley (where he was on a list of “100 most powerful people in Silicon Valley”), from 1970-2000. Today, Tom and his wife Susan Sargent, a prominent tapestry weaver, home-furnishings designer, and entrepreneur, live on a 1,400-acre working farm in Tinmouth, Vermont.

Peters is a civil engineering graduate of Cornell University (B.C.E., M.C.E.), where he is included in the book The 100 Most Notable Cornellians; he subsequently earned an MBA and Ph.D. in business at Stanford University, penning what one senior faculty member called, “the first dissertation on implementation per se;” he also has been awarded honorary doctorates from institutions that range from the University of San Francisco to the State University of Management in Moscow—and has been honored by dozens of associations in content areas such as management, leadership, quality, human resources, customer service, innovation, marketing and design. In the U.S. Navy from 1966-1970, he made two deployments to Vietnam as a combat engineer in the fabled Navy Seabees and “survived a tour in the Pentagon.” He also served as a White House drug-abuse advisor in 1973-74, working principally on issues associated with international drug trafficking. Tom worked at McKinsey & Co. from 1974-1981, becoming a Partner in 1979; he was described in a recent book, The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, as having “re-branded McKinsey as a group of thinkers” and as “the most famous consultant McKinsey has ever produced.” Since 1982, Peters has operated out of the Tom Peters Company, mostly in Palo Alto and more recently in Vermont.

11 March 2015/Patons Rock New Zealand & West Tinmouth, Vermont


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Allison Shirreffs


Where is Tom and what is he up to? Take a look at Tom’s photos on flickr.