Tom's halfway around the world from home once again. In Sydney, he's one of the speakers at the World Business Forum 2015, along with movie director Oliver Stone, former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, and other excellent company.
Tom bumped into a Cool Friend at the HOW Design Conference in Chicago. Not surprisingly, John Maeda was among the speakers, and he and Tom got a chance to have a bit of conversation. We interviewed Maeda in 2006, when he was part of the Simplicity Consortium at the MIT Media Lab. From there he progressed to being the president of RISD, and now he's a design partner at Kleiner Perkins.
Today's event takes Tom to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business 2015 Distinguished Leadership and Innovation Conference in Port of Spain. The other principal speaker at this premier annual regional event is Tom’s long time colleague Peter Senge—Peter, the world’s leading evangelist for “systems thinking,” is best known for his book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Public and private sector leaders from numerous Caribbean nations will be in attendance.
Tom is speaking to the HSM Management & Leadership Forum in São Paulo today. He reckons it's about his 15th or so visit to SP in the last, say, 25 years. As usual, he's working with his colleague and HSM founder Jose Salibi Neto. From the start Tom has called HSM events "peerless." Over the years, HSM has branched out far beyond Brazil—including an annual extravaganza for thousands in Radio City Music Hall. (Tom called his appearance on the Radio City stage "beyond belief, a 'pinch me' moment.")
In conversation with Tom before the current event, Jose shared his "secret" of sustaining: "Every year is a start-up. As is every event. You begin the year and the event with ZERO satisfied customers. You must earn your reputation each time out." Tom says it's a sentiment he can "very much relate to."
As to Tom's talk, he says it will be built around "something new that's not new." Preparing for the event, he read a relatively new book, The Customer Service Revolution by customer service guru and wildly successful entrepreneur John DiJulius. Tom continued, "Sure, this is a sentiment that has been my 'calling' for years, but John said it so very very perfectly: 'YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL NEVER BE ANY HAPPIER THAN YOUR EMPLOYEES.'"
I have been tweaking and twisting the attached document. Here's the latest.
When we interviewed Rajesh Setty for our Cool Friends collection, he described himself as a serial entrepreneur. Since then, he's skipped from one good idea to another, always with the the same goal, the tag line for his blog, "Bringing Ideas to Life, With Love!"
Tom participated in a recent project, Audvisor. In Setty's words:
"Audvisor is the world's first push-button learning app for smartphones. We bring the world's top experts to share their insights in 3 minutes or less. The insights are delivered Pandora-style. Listeners can pick topic(s) or expert(s), push a button, and start learning. You can read more and download the app at www.audvisor.com."
He sent us these links, for your convenience:
What follows is the byproduct of an enhanced (>140 characters) twitter discussion in February 2015 at @tom_peters:
TP: "Management" is a dreary/misleading word. E.g., mgt/standard usage = shouting (or whispering, if you're a "Theory Y" aficionado) orders in the slave galley. Consider, please, a more encompassing/more accurate definition: "'Management' is the arrangement of human affairs in pursuit of desired outcomes." (No kidding. Self-evident. Or should be.)
TP: Management is not about Theory X vs. Theory Y/"top down" vs. "bottom up." It is about how humans fundamentally arrange their/our collective efforts in order to survive—and, hopefully, thrive.
TP: Quintessential "management doctrine": U.S. Constitution?! (Among other things, artfully combines "vision" and "execution.")
TP: Love the idea of U.S. b-schools teaching full-blown course on U.S. Constitution. Three profs: poly sci, econ, psych.
TP: Constitution Hall in Philly in summer of 1787: Ultimate "board room" debate on "managerial philosophy"—in this case, a bold experimental collectivity called a "democratic" nation, the United States of America.
TP: Constitution defining doctrine on the merits and demerits of "centralization vs. decentralization"/autonomy (the "big idea") vs. control (a necessary reality). (The drafters of the U.S. Constitution included decentralists like Jefferson and centralists like Adams and middle-of-the-roaders like Franklin.)
Twitter respondent: "Sounds like someone has locked you in a boardroom for a day with a management consultant."
TP response to the above: Get your point all too well, as a professional jargon hater, but my goal is to suggest there's nothing pedestrian about "management"—and, hence, there should not be anything pedestrian about the teaching thereof. It is about the essence of collective life. (Man, in our Darwinian adventure, experienced a "disruptive" brief period in which our brains grew like Topsy. The growth was not the genetic addition of logic/incipient math skills; it was primarily the addition of enhanced social skills, which allowed us to organize and thus surpass the rest of our fellow creatures. I.e., we learned de facto "management.")
TP: Nations are by definition in the "people (citizen) development business." Which includes an encasement called "national security" (given, alas, a Hobbesian view of humans at their acquisitive-aggressive worst*). (*The drafters of the U.S. Constitution were by and large Hobbesian—much concerned about blunting the downsides of collective behavior.)
The U.S. Constitution is an exemplar of brevity—and for the subsequent 238 years there has been, as there should be, a battle royal between "small government" adherents and "big government" adherents. While my politics are "liberal," I would have to admit that I come down squarely on the Philip K. Howard side of the fence; his latest masterpiece book is titled, The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government. That is, over time sluggishness increases and entropic forces rule. Among other things, this by and large explains the pitiful (accurate word choice) long-term performance of large commercial enterprises; e.g., half of the "Fortune 500" of 1999 had dropped off the list a scant 15 years later.
One sage said that dealing with technology change effectively is less about the technology per se and more about the lagging variable—novel organizational formats that must be invented. I would wholeheartedly agree. The Tech Tsunami is exactly that, a tsunami. But the primary work to be done must focus on people (development thereof in the face of, at the top of the list, charging artificial intelligence) and the organizational arrangements that allow firms to adapt on a dime (as hard a task as exists) and exploit rather than be run over by the technology. This is a million miles beyond mere organizational "flattening" and the "agile movement."
The old battle royal persists. I abhor authoritarianism—but I am equally fearful of anarchy.
We shall see.
(Wouldn't it be lovely if our "management" schools could be a leading variable rather than a lagging variable in embracing change. This wee paper does not hold the answer—but perhaps it is a hint at how tawdry "management," and education associated therewith, must be reconceived as a discipline at the epicenter of adapting to/exploiting the revolutions with which we are surrounded—from Washington to Wellington, from Wall Street to Main Street. We could do little better than start with Peter Drucker's dictum that "management" is not a numbers game aiming for "optimization," but instead the quintessential "liberal art." MBA as "Master of Business Arts," anyone? Just a thought.)