Category: Excellence

HARD IS SOFT. SOFT IS HARD.

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

 

From Rich Karlgaard’s THE SOFT EDGE: WHERE GREAT COMPANIES FIND LASTING SUCCESS:

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.]

Excellence.

People.

Innovation.

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.

Consider:

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.

Design Power

07.22.2021

Below, design guru Richard Farson, whom I knew, says, “Design is everything. Everything is design. We are all designers.” I passionately believe that design is “everything.” It is the primo differentiator. But what is it?

I dearly hope you will take the quotes below seriously, and imbed them into your daily affairs. Read them slowly. Please. Reflect. Quietly. Internalize the idea that a passion for design changes, well, everything. In today’s madcap world, it is, IMHO, the #1, #2, and #3 differentiator and signature of all we do.

As I said above, please-please-please reflect on this. Long. And hard.
 

Steve Jobs was a leader in the design world.

He and Jony Ives, Apple’s former design chief, both saw the importance of design:

We don’t have a good language to talk about this kind of thing. In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer... But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design.DESIGN IS THE FUNDAMENTAL SOUL OF A MAN-MADE CREATION.”Steve Jobs, “Apple's One-Dollar-a-Year Man,” FORTUNE Magazine

Expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then try to bring those things into what you are doing.”Steve Jobs, in Steve Denning’s, The Lost Interview: Steve Jobs Tells Us What Really Matters," Forbes

Huge degree of care.”Jony Ives, in Ian Parker’s, “The Shape of Things to Come,” New Yorker

In some way, by caring, we are actually serving humanity. People might think it’s a stupid belief, but it’s a goal—it’s a contribution that we hope we can make, in some small way, to culture.”Jony Ives continues in Ian Parker’s, “The Shape of Things to Come,” New Yorker

STEVE AND JONY WOULD DISCUSS CORNERS FOR HOURS AND HOURS.”Laurene Powell Jobs, in Ian Parker’s, “The Shape of Things to Come,” New Yorker

 

Design in the small details. Design beyond veneer.

But that day, in that experience, the thing that really gave me comfort was a tiny mirror [on the MRI machine enabling patient eye contact with the tech and nurse] about as big as a Band-Aid.” Janet Dugan, a healthcare architect undergoing an MRI exam stated in Tim Leberecht’s book, The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself

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.’ BUT THESE AREN’T JUST SCREWS. LIKE THE THERMOMETER ITSELF, THEY’RE BETTER SCREWS, EPIC SCREWS, SCREWS WITH, DARE I SAY IT, DEEPER MEANING.”Tony Fadell, the founder of Nest, in Richard Karlgaard’s, The Soft Edge

He said for him the craft of building a boat was like a religion. It wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually; you had to surrender yourself absolutely to it. When you were done and walked away, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart.”Daniel Brown on the world’s premier racing shell builder, George Yeoman Pocock, in Brown’s book, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it.” Thomas Merton, in Edward Deming Andrews and Faith Andrews’, Religion in Wood: A Book of Shaker Furniture

It is fair to say that almost no new vehicle in recent memory has provoked more smiles.”review of the MINI Cooper S, Tony Swan’s, “BEHIND THE WHEEL/Mini Cooper; Animated Short, Dubbed in German,” New York Times

For every engineer and marketer on the ‘Experience Design & Development Team,’ you need an artist, psychologist, musician, theater director—and perhaps a shaman.”Tom Peters

I believe that emotion eats reason for breakfast. I am not a daydreamer, idealist, or social activist. I am a business romantic.”Tim Leberecht, The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself

Design is everything.
Everything is design.
We are all designers.”Richard Farson, The Power of Design: A Force for Transforming Everything

Only one company can be the cheapest. All others must use design.”Rodney Fitch, in Stephen A.R. Scrivener, Linden J. Ball and Andree Woodcock’s, Collaborative Design: Proceedings of CoDesigning 2000

 

The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think

Deloitte consultants took a sample of 45 years’ performance of25,000 companies, and eventually winnowed the list to 27 superstars from which they extracted the The Three Rules, which became the title of the Deloitte book, co-authored by Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed.

(1) Better before cheaper.

(2) Revenue before cost.

(3) There are no other rules.”

 

Read:

Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Donald Norman

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands by Kevin Roberts

The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself by Tim Leberecht

AVOID MODERATION!

07.22.2021

David Ogilvy wrote in his book, Ogilvy on Advertising, that few copywriters are ambitious. “‘Raise your sights!’ I exhort them. ‘Blaze new trails! Hit the ball out of the park!! Compete with the immortals!!!”

That sends chills down my spine. Chills of delight.

This set of quotes is about looking for magic, stretching beyond comprehension. How about adopting this to your bailiwick? And not just into ads or new products. These sentiments apply to a new training course or business process as much as they do to a new product or service offering.
 

Kevin Roberts’ Credo:

1. Ready. Fire! Aim.
2. If it ain’t broke ... break it!
3. Hire crazies.
4. Ask dumb questions.
5. Pursue failure.
6. Lead, follow ... or get out of the way!
7. Spread confusion.
8. Ditch your office.
9. Read odd stuff.
10. Avoid moderation!"

(Mr. Roberts was most recently CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide. His book Lovemarks is on my “best business books ever” short list.)
 

INSANELY GREAT” Steve Jobs’ new product standard

RADICALLY THRILLING” BMW, ad for a new model

ASTONISH ME” Sergei Diaghley, to a lead dancer

'What should I make?' Yokoi asked. Yamauchi said, 'Something great.'" David Sheff about former president of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, in his book, Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World

Every project we undertake starts with the same question: ‘How can we do what has never been done before?’” Stuart Hornery, in "The Company Without Limits" Fast Company by Polly LaBarre

Let us create such a building that future generations will take us for lunatics.” The church hierarchs at Seville

You can’t behave in a calm, rational manner. You’ve got to be out there on the lunatic fringe.” Jack Welch, former chairman of GE, in “'Black Belts' Roam GE Plants To Weed Out Snafus, Cut Costs” Wall Street Journal by William M. Carley

We are crazy. We should only do something when people say it is ‘crazy.’ If people say something is ‘good,’ it means someone else is already doing it.” Hajime Mitarai, former CEO, Canon, in "Crazy is Praise for Us" Forbes by Gale Eisenstodt

We all agree your theory is crazy. The question, which divides us, is whether it is crazy enough...” Niels Bohr, to Wolfgang Pauli

There’s no use trying,’ said Alice. ‘One cannot believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

To hell with ‘well behaved’ … Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? ‘Keep her,’ I replied. … The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me.” Anna Quindlen, Newsweek

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman: The Revolutionists' Handbook.

Course 3: Innovation

We are so excited to announce that Tom's third course, Innovation, is out now!

This course is a great reminder that playful work environments encourage innovation. Read on to learn more about Course 3: Innovation 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 6 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 3: Innovation

Innovation is about continuous experimentation by one and all, embracing and rewarding inevitable and useful mistakes—and, most importantly, establishing a full blown culture of playfulness. Tom's goal in this course is to demystify innovation. This course covers 10 steps to excellence, each with one TTDN (Thing To Do Now).

The first part of innovation is what Tom calls WTTMSW (Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins) and is explained by two of Tom's favorite quotes:

We made mistakes, of course. . . . We fixed them by doing it over and over, again and again. . . . While our competitors are still sucking their thumbs trying to make the design perfect, we’re already on prototype version No. 5. By the time our rivals are ready with wires and screws, we are on version No. 10. It gets back to planning versus acting: We act from day one; others plan how to plan—for months.”Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg by Bloomberg

You can’t be a serious innovator unless and until you are ready, willing and able to seriously play. ‘Serious play’ is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation.”Michael Schrage, Serious Play

The second critical piece of the innovation puzzle? Hang out with cool, and thou shalt become more cool; hang out with dull, and thou shalt become more dull. Crazy times call for intimate and continuous contact with crazy people. Too many organizations are loaded to the gunnels with “same-same.” That’s the kiss of death for innovation.

Register for Course 3: Innovation today.

Vala Afshar on Extreme Humanism

Vala Afshar is a longtime Twitter friend of Tom's. As a Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce, Vala has been a strong supporter of Tom's vision. Vala and Tom have many interviews on the books including their recent discussion on DisrupTV. Watch it here if you haven't had a chance to check it out.

That is why we asked Vala, "What does extreme humanism mean to you?"

Margaret Price on Extreme Humanism

Margaret Price uses inclusive, human centered methodology to frame and solve big problems everyday in her work as Principal Design Strategist at Microsoft. She says, "exploring the confluence between people, business, and technology is my sweet spot."

As a founder of the Inclusive Design practice at Microsoft, Margaret was the ideal person to ask, "what does extreme humanism mean to you?"

Betsy Myers on Extreme Humanism Meaning

Betsy Myers is a leadership consultant and speaker. She was senior adviser to two US presidents and former executive director of Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Betsy wrote Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire and Bring Out the Best in Yourself & Everyone Around You. Some of Tom's favorite quotes come from her book.

Val Willis’ Extreme Humanism Meaning

Val Willis is a longtime colleague of Tom's and consultant with Tom Peters Company. She founded and runs her own boutique firm specializing in speaking engagements and consulting that is dedicated to aligning businesses and organizations of all sizes with their brand, values, missions and vision.

We asked Val, "What does extreme humanism mean to you?"

The Moral Responsibility of Enterprise: Credo 2021

Most of us spend the best parts of our waking hours in a business with 1 to 100,001 fellow employees. Business, therefore, is not "part of the community." Business is the community. Hence, the "first order of business" for any enterprise is its ongoing moral responsibility to all of those who make its success possible: employees, in terms of their personal growth, and social equity as regards gender and race. This also includes the communities in which its employees lives as well as the larger communities where the enterprise does business: city, state, country, planet.

And as to output—what business delivers to its employees, its communities, and its customers—it holds a sacred obligation to create products and services that, as Jony Ive (Apple's former design leader), says, "serve humanity first."

Regarding traditional business goals, such as unwavering commitment to excellence and to people and community are the only repeatedly proven long-term drivers of exceptional growth and profitability. Looking down the road, developing the full potential of its people and providing products and services that inspire offer the best chance we have to continue to provide enlightened and humane contributions that the looming artificial intelligence tsunami cannot take away from us.