Category: Excellence

Authors Q&A

Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence is out and we are so excited to share it with you. Curious what the authors, Tom Peters and Nancye Green, were thinking when they wrote/designed it? They answered a few questions for just that reason:

Do you believe Extreme Humanism is relevant for every field?
Passionately. As designers, for example, we are taught to care about people and what matters to them when we are trying to solve a design problem. Are our products useful? Our instructions helpful? Do they satisfy a real need? Do they delight? In short, respect each person’s needs and differences. At the core, that is “humanism.”

Why did you create Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence?
I’ve been talking and writing about Extreme Humanism, Excellence, and Business Excellence for a long time now. But this book is “not my show.” This book spotlights the voices of others—from every discipline or industry or even pulpit—who have inspired me, and who I hope will inspire you too. And by “inspire” I mean…inspire you to act and act now.

How did you get involved in this book?
I’m a designer who founded a movement called un/teaching, which is meant to bring thought leaders together to contribute to a more humane and just world, to learn compassion, and unlearn old patterns. Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence was a natural fit for my passions.

How does the message differ from Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism?
The message—at its core—is the same. Put people first! Be a stellar community member. Create the best, not the cheapest. What I’ve changed is the message delivery. Instead of reading my arguments (900 pages in Liberation Management), Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence is designed for the reader to pick up, to read a quote or two or three, and to begin to digest it and test its relevance.

How does art overlap with business?
Design can build value, shape markets, as well as educate, engage, and inspire. As a designer I use a process fueled by empathy and compassion, aimed at serving people and society. I believe it takes all of us using our unique talents and insights to build a more humane world, where business has a critical role in serving the greater good.

How do the arguments here hold up as the nature of work changes radically, as AI challenges the legitimacy of almost all of our jobs?
“Hold up”? Put simply, these messages are far more important than before. As tech shortcuts arrive by the nanosecond, how do we keep our humanity—and even broaden it? I think the approaches to Extreme Humanism described here help us create exquisite products, motivate one and all to constantly grow, and make us all utterly determined to “make the world a little bit better.” It is the only path for us and our communities that matters.

Find out more about the Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence and un/teaching.

Available 11/1/2022

Excellence 2022. Tom’s book #20. Available 11/1/2022.

Here’s journalist Lisa McLeod enjoying her early copy.

Kirkus Review

We’re excited to share Kirkus’s review of Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence:


By Tom Peters and Nancye Green
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2022

A guide offers a collection of business insights in an attractively designed package.

Business guru Peters’ book combines his thoughts—and the words of many others he quotes throughout the volume—with the design work of Nancye Green to create a motivational objet d’art that is both aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking. The volume, which is a small square rather than the standard rectangular shape found on most bookshelves, consists of 13 thematic sections. With headings including “Execution: The ‘Last 95 Percent,’ ” “Long-Term Investors Prosper,” “Sustainability: The Right Things to Do. The Profitable Thing to Do,” and “Leadership: You Must Care,” the work addresses familiar topics in business literature, and does so concisely, with just a handful of words on each page. From the start, Peters urges readers to think about business as having a social and community purpose as much as a financial role to fulfill (“Business as a community and as a contributor to communities has an obligation to create products and services which inspire—and which aim to make the world a bit better”). The book backs a holistic approach to business, with liberal arts graduates in key roles, leaders who advocate for their staffs, and a focus on long-term results over short-term financials. Most of the Peters-written content, he explains in the introduction, is “extracted” from his work Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism (2021). His new volume also includes many quotations from journalists, business executives, and thought leaders—including Larry Bossidy (former CEO of Honeywell International), Anita Roddick (founder of the British version of the Body Shop), entrepreneur Richard Branson, and author Marcus Buckingham—which Peters expands on.

The book’s design is inviting and engaging, even though the color palette is limited to grayscale, with the typography enhancing and reinforcing the work’s messages. The generous font size makes for easy reading, as does the inclusion of a significant amount of white space on most of the pages. This is not an information-heavy tome but a convenient and attractive gift book for those who are already familiar with Peters’ writings and want a beautiful object for display or an easy-to-grab collection of pithy and often insightful quotes. A few, like “WTTMS(ASTMSUTF)W: Whoever Tries The Most Stuff (And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest) Wins” and “Fail. Forward. Fast.” (both attributed to “High-tech executive, Philadelphia, at one of Peters’ speeches”), seem more like filler than valuable material. Some pages are more interactive, presenting readers with a series of questions, but most simply offer a short excerpt from another work; citations are given for all quotes. The thematic sections provide the book’s structure, and although they are generally discrete, they do build on one another. Readers who are in search of concrete and actionable lessons in leadership and management should turn to Peters’ more traditional books or those by other business thought leaders for deeper explorations of how to develop the skills and implement the ideas discussed in this volume. But for Peters fans who are already acquainted with his work and appreciate easy access to a selection of conceptual points in a well-designed package, the work is a present that will be appreciated.

A gift book approach to leadership lessons that delivers highlights elegantly.

Coming November 1st

Tom’s new book, Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence, will be published November 1st! Tom partnered with iconic designer Nancye Green of Donovan/Green to create this leadership guidebook. They packed the strikingly designed little book with exhilarating quotes that will urge you to recognize what truly matters at work.

We look for people that are warm and caring and actually altruistic. We look for people who have a fun-loving attitude.”

Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus, Southwest Airlines

Being aware of yourself and how you affect everyone around you is what distinguishes a superior leader.”

Cindy Miller, with Edie Seashore, in Sally Helgesen’s “Masters of the Breakthrough Moment,” strategy + business

Better before cheaper. Revenue before cost. There are no other rules.”

Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed, The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think

These are just a couple of quotes from the guidebook. Over the decades, Tom has gathered these gems of wisdom from those down in the trenches creating extraordinary places to work. The insights you’ll find in Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence will move you to action, to vigorously and passionately support our communities, provide products and services that stun your clientele with their excellence and verve, and serve our ailing planet. It’s not just the best path forward, it’s the path that can engender purpose and pride in all of us who perform the work.

Nancye designed the book for you, the reader, keeping in mind the most accessible and captivating way to absorb the wisdom. This book is meant to be picked up when you’re in need of inspiration. It provides you a framework for how to think about the way you act, the way you live, the way you govern your relationships with others.

We are all in need of some inspiration from time to time. Take this guidebook with you wherever you need to be reminded of excellence.

Pre-Order Now

How Personal Branding Can Heal Humanity

Tom’s iconic article “The Brand Called YOU” appeared in Fast Company 25 years ago. William Arruda, founder of Reach Personal Branding, said of the article, “After reading it, I put down the magazine and decided to walk away from my marketing position at IBM so that I could dedicate my career to personal branding.”

Today William Arruda published his interview with Tom in Forbes. It covers the anniversary of “The Brand Called YOU” and Tom’s latest book Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism (as well as a sneak preview of Tom’s next project). Here are some of our favorite quotes from Tom:

[Personal branding] is about doing incredibly good work, making friends, and being noticed for the good work.”

I’ve only been talking about one thing for 40 years, and that is “People First.” A people-first strategy works as much now as it did in the past. AI is not going to take over every job in the next 20 years.”

Extreme humanism says, “If we take care of people, if we educate people, if we produce products that are not aimed at making the climate warm up, we can live that way, we can be proud that way.”

Read the full interview for more.


Tom has assembled wise words that he has collected over his years of research, those that he shares most often or feels are most valuable. He uses these words to guide his work, whether speaking or writing or simply living. The words themselves come from military leaders, professors, photographers, entrepreneurs, film directors, business leaders, and high-level researchers because, as Tom acknowledges, excellence can be ubiquitous.

If you’re in need of inspiration or a thoughtful reminder, download the Forty-three Quotes.

Bob and Tom’s Excellent Adventure: 1977-2022

Bob Waterman died, at age 86, on January 2, 2022; among other things, the 2nd day of the year that marks the 40th anniversary of the 1982 publication of In Search of Excellence.

Bob and I co-created/co-authored In Search. We both thought we had done a pretty decent job, and the reception to the presentations of the book’s material had been uniformly heartening; but make no mistake, we were both staggered by the reception the book received and, for that matter, continues to receive. The only person more surprised than we were was our Harper & Row publisher, Ed Burlingame.

Bob and I were, on the one hand, cut from the same cloth. We were both trained as engineers, Bob at the Colorado School of Mines, me at Cornell. We both got MBAs from the Stanford Business School, and we both labored at McKinsey’s San Francisco office.

But we were also very different in ways that doubtless, in retrospect, drove our book’s success. I was noisy (orally and in print), profane, and opinionated. Bob was calm and thoughtful. Blending those differences was, upon reflection, what in the end made the book. After Bob had done a re-write of an early draft of the manuscript on his spanking new Apple II, my closest McKinsey friend, Alan Kennedy, was furious, and thought Bob had drained the spirit from the book. I was irritated, too; but I subsequently believe that the to-ing and fro-ing enabled the book to connect with the real business or non-business reader and leader—challenging her or him pretty directly, but not whacking her or him over the head with a splintery two-by-four.

Bob and I became close pals, and the Waterman family, starting with the wonderful Judy Waterman, became my second family during a rough patch in my personal life which coincided with the book’s birthing.

Bob and I never argued. At least in the normal usage of the word. We “argued” by editing intensely the most recent draft of the manuscript that one of us had handed over to the other.

A year before the book’s publication, I left McKinsey rather unceremoniously, having pushed some “strategy first-last-forever” power players too hard with my incessant “people first” ranting. But the writing process, amazingly, continued without a hitch. I even continued my presentations of the materials to McKinsey clients as the material was massaged and massaged some more.

Bob was a dear dear pal, his family was my family, and in some strange way the book reflected that rather perfectly. The idea of the book was to get beyond the sterile P&Ls and org charts, and get to the human heart of enterprise and its place in the community and the world. The data and our extensive research led us that way, but the true magic was arguably the quiet Tom & Bob Show that made the book what it was and is, and made it a dramatic departure from the bloodless depiction of business practices that were the norm in the 1977-1982 interval that marked the book’s birthing and road-testing.

I loved Bob dearly and miss him to an unimaginable degree. Rest in peace, brother.

Read Tom’s full remembrance article.

For more on Bob Waterman, check out this Cool Friend interview with him.

Course 5: Leadership Excellence – OUT NOW!

Tom has done it again! Leadership Excellence is his second to last course and it provides ready-to-use strategies for every leader.

Tom says, “This is simply a series of tools guaranteed to make you a more effective leader. Guaranteed because I have seen each one work a jillion times.” With Tom’s leadership toolbox you can try a few tools today, then some more next week. Pick a half dozen of the tools on offer. Or try them all. You’ll have to stick with them, adapt them to your situation, and march on.

Read on to learn more about Course 5: Leadership Excellence and Tom’s full course series, Excellence: Now More Than Ever.

Course Series

Excellence: Now More Than Ever, The Excellence Dividend Online Experience consists of six courses and offers a total of 99 Steps to Excellence, each followed by specific actions you can take NOW. The goal of this series is simple: to offer you and your organization—a 2-person accountancy, a 14-person training department, a 23-person non-profit staff, or a division of a giant company—a helping hand in implementing the products of decades of Tom’s research.

Course 5: Leadership Excellence

[Below is what Tom has written to introduce this course.]

The U.S. Navy paid my way through college. I paid them back with four years of service. The first 18 months were in Vietnam, where I was a Navy combat engineer (Seabee). I had two tours in Vietnam, two commanding officers (COs). I call them “Captain Day” and “Captain Night.” Together they taught me more about leadership—good and bad—than I could imagine. And the lessons stuck.

Captain Day, my first deployment boss, loved his sailors—not unlike how Dwight Eisenhower loved his Army troops and Herb Kelleher loved his team at Southwest Airlines (more on that coming up). He was a no-nonsense get-the-job-done-on-time guy, but he clearly gave a damn—A BIG DAMN—about each and every one of us. He also avoided the command tent and spent most of his day in the field. Ten years after Vietnam I learned what to call his style: MBWA (Managing By Wandering Around)—a Hewlett-Packard invention.

Deployment No. 2 brought “Captain Night.” He had a different style of “leadership” entirely. It’s often called “by the book.” He was a stickler for formalities. In fact, I sometimes thought he was more interested in typo-free reports of jobs not yet done than hell-and-highwater-completed construction with, perhaps, sketchy documentation. I had a crappy time, as did virtually all of us junior officers, and our track record in getting things done for our customers was less than sterling. For me, the quintessential event came when I was summoned to the CO’s office and lectured on the difference between “tangible” and “palpable” in a report I’d prepared that was going up the chain of command—to this day, over 50 years later, I have no idea what the difference is between the two words. But I damn well know the difference between “Day” and “Night”—and the yawning gap between leadership that fosters growth and pride-in-accomplishment versus leadership that does the opposite.

I went from Vietnam to the Pentagon, and got another “degree” in leadership—this time leadership in big bureaucracies. Some of my bosses could move mountains, some could not.

I don’t like fancy stuff, so I’ve boiled my leadership learning in this course to 24 tools. No theory, just 24 leadership tools that work. My goal, then, is to give you a big box of “stuff”—practical ideas you can apply as soon as you finish watching and reading.


Register for Course 5: Leadership Excellence today.



8.27.2018 revised 7.9.2021

Tom wants to remind us of the importance of Hard is Soft. Soft is Hard. Here’s what he says:

(“Hard [plans, numbers, org charts] is soft [abstract, readily manipulable]. Soft [people, relationships, culture] is hard [bedrock, lasting].)”

My Life in Six Words

The terms ‘hard facts’ and ‘the soft stuff’ used in business imply that data are somehow real and strong while emotions are weak and less important.”George Kohlrieser, Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance

My life in six words: Hard is soft. Soft is hard.

Hard (numbers/plans/org charts) is soft: Plans are often fantasies; organizational charts have little to do with the way the organization actually works; and numbers are readily manipulated. Case in point: “quants” and ratings-agency staffers cleverly packaged and evaluated “derivatives” of valueless mortgages, thus spurring the multi-trillion dollar financial crash of 2007–2008 and beyond.

Soft (people/relationships/culture) is hard: The best “people practices” (caring, training, acknowledging) create the most wholesome, community-minded organizations—and win in the marketplace as well. Effective people practices, design that inspires, customers who are enthralled, vendors who bend over backwards to assist us are all byproducts of a supportive culture nurtured one day at a time.

This was the heart of In Search of Excellence. This is the heart of my work today. This has been the heart of every one of my books. “Hard is soft/soft is hard” has been taken up by some, but I’m afraid it’s not the norm. And as I write, we are beginning to emerge from the grip of COVID-19 and deep social and political unrest. Humane and thoughtful behavior is in fact more important than ever. Far more important!

Google Gets a [B-I-G] [SOFT] Surprise

Project Oxygen [data from founding in 1998 to 2013] shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others’ different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas. Those traits sounds more like what gets as an English or theater major than as a programmer. …

“Project Aristotle [2017] further supports the importance of soft skills even in high-tech environments. Project Aristotle analyzes data on inventive and productive teams,. Google takes pride in it’s A-teams, assembled with top scientists, each with the most specialized knowledge and able to throw down one cutting-edge idea after another. Its data analysis revealed, however, that the company’s most important and productive ideas come from B-teams comprised of employees that don’t always have to be the smartest people in the room. Project Aristotle shows that that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. …

“[Tech] billionaire venture capitalist and ‘Shark Tank’ TV personality Mark Cuban looks for philosophy majors when he’s investing in sharks most likely to succeed.”Source: Valerie Strauss, “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees—and what it means for today’s students” (Washington Post)

Bonus: All Hail the Liberal Arts

AT GRADUATION: Business and professional degree holders in general [MBAs, engineers, lawyers, etc.] have higher interview and hire rates, and higher starting salaries, than new liberal arts grads.

YEAR 20: Liberal arts grads have risen farther than their biz-professional degree holder peers. At one giant tech firm, 43 percent of liberal arts grads had made it to upper-middle management compared to 32 percent of engineering grads. At one giant financial services firm, 60 percent of the worst managers, according to company evaluations, had MBAs, while 60 percent of the best had only BAs.

Source: Henry Mintzberg, Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development, 

More/Sample among these:

The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World, by Scott Hartley

You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education, by George Anders

Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm, by Christian Madsbjerg

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein



I believe the business world is at a crossroads, where hard-edged people are dominating the narrative and discussion. … The battle for attention and money boiling inside most companies and among most managers is that between the hard and soft edges. …

“Far too many companies invest too little time and money in their soft-edge excellence. … The this mistake has three main reasons:

    “1. The hard edge is easier to quantify. …
    “2. Successful hard-edge investment provides a faster return on investment. …
    “3. CEOs, CFOs, chief operating officers, boards of directors, and shareholders speak the language of finance. …

“Here’s the case for investing time and money in your company’s soft edge:

    “1. Soft-edge strength leads to greater brand recognition, higher profit margins, … [It] is the ticket out of Commodityville.
    “2. Companies strong in the soft edge are better prepared to survive a big strategic mistake or cataclysmic disruption …
    “3. Hard-edge strength provides a fleeting advantage. [It] is easier to clone than the soft edge.”

1982-2021: In Search of Excellence/Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism

Hard is soft. Soft is hard.

“Hard [plans, numbers, org charts] is soft.

“Soft [people, relationships, culture] is hard.”

Q.E.D. (IMHO.)

Course 4: Added-Value Strategies

We are excited to share with you that Tom’s fourth course is OUT NOW!

As Tom has said, “We don’t need a ‘defense’ against encroaching AI. We need an offense—a positive approach.” In this course Tom talks in particular about—and provides examples of—what he calls “EXTREME HUMANISM.” (And, Tom believes, pleasure AND profits will follow!)

Read on to learn more about Course 4: Value-Added Strategies and Tom’s full course series, Excellence: Now More Than Ever.

Course Series

Excellence: Now More Than Ever, The Excellence Dividend Online Experience consists of six courses and offers a total of 99 Steps to Excellence, each followed by specific actions you can take NOW. The goal of this series is simple: to offer you and your organization—a 2-person accountancy, a 14-person training department, a 23-person non-profit staff, or a division of a giant company—a helping hand in implementing the products of decades of Tom’s research.

Course 4: Value-Added Strategies

[Below is what Tom has written to introduce this course.]




Those three words are the focus of each of the three previous courses in this series. Now comes the time to apply the fruits of the first three courses to market opportunities.

Hence: Value-Added Strategies.

We start where we should start: DESIGN. Value-Added Strategies aim to differentiate our product and service offerings. And at the top of the list—way ahead of any No. 2 in my view—is design.

Design is not easy to pin down. It’s products and services that work and are easy to use (great functionality). It’s products and services that are attractive, even beautiful (aesthetics). But it’s more—much more.


Rich Karlgaard describes Nest founder Tony Fadell’s approach, first by quoting him, “‘Every business school in the world would flunk you if you came out with a business plan that said, “Oh, by the way, we’re going to design and fabricate our own screws at an exponentially higher cost than it would cost to buy them.”’” Karlgaard goes on, “But these aren’t just screws. Like the thermometer itself, they’re better screws, epic screws, screws with, dare I say it, deeper meaning.”

Yes. Epic Screws. Screws with deeper meaning.

Or this, from a New York Times review by Tony Swan of the MINI Cooper S, reported in Donald Norman’s book Emotional Design:

“It is fair to say that almost no new vehicle in recent memory has provoked more smiles.”

Design as functionality.

Design as beauty.

Design as “screws with deeper meaning.”

Design as a car provoking “more smiles.”

Design writ (VERY) large as “Differentiator No. 1.”

Altogether, there will be thirteen value-added strategies offered up, ending with two that represent the biggest market opportunities in the world. Namely, the women’s market. Mantra: WOMEN BUY . . . E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. And the “oldies market.” Mantra: OLDIES HAVE . . . A-L-L THE MONEY.

Register for Course 4: Added-Value Strategies today.