The Pursuit of Luck

Tom Peters

Several readers have criticized some recent columns that suggested business success was largely a matter of luck. They miss my point: If you believe success is mostly due to luck, there are strategies you can pursue to lure luck out of hiding. (By contrast, if you believe that orderly plans and getting up an hour earlier than the next person are the answer, then by all means arise before the rooster and start planning.)

Want to get lucky? Try following these 50 (!) strategies:

1. At bats. More times at the plate, more hits.

2. Try it. Cut the baloney and get on with something.

3. Ready. Fire. Aim. (Rather than Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim. …)

4. “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” Courtesy Johnsonville Foods CEO Ralph Stayer, who reminds us that the first phone and airplane were nothing to write home about—but you have to start somewhere.

5. Read odd stuff. Look anywhere for ideas.

6. Visit odd places. Want to “see” speed? Visit CNN.

7. Make odd friends.

8. Hire odd people. Boring folks, boring ideas.

9. Cultivate odd hobbies. Raise orchids. Race yaks.

10. Work with odd partners.

11. Ask dumb questions. “How come computer commands all come from keyboards?” That’s how the mouse was born.

12. Empower. Folks who “own” the task take more at bats.

13. Train without limits. Pick up the tab for training unrelated to work—keep everyone engaged, period.

14. Applaud passion. “Dispassionate innovator” is an oxymoron.

15. Pursue failure. Failure is success’s only launching pad. (The bigger, the better!)

16. Root out “not invented here.” Swipe from the best.

17. Constantly reorganize. Mix, match. Shake things up.

18. Listen to everyone. Ideas come from anywhere.

19. Don’t listen to anyone. Trust your inner ear.

20. Get fired. (More than once is OK.) If you’re not pushing hard enough to get sacked, you’re not pushing hard enough.

21. Nurture intuition. If you can find an interesting idea that’s come from a rational plan, I’ll eat my hat.

22. Forget the same, tired trade association meetings talking with the same, tired people about the same, tired things.

23. Decentralize. At bats are proportional to autonomy.

24. Decentralize again.

25. Smash all functional barriers. Unfettered contact among people from different disciplines is magic.

26. Destroy hierarchies.

27. Open the books. Make everyone a “businessperson,” with access to all the financials.

28. Share all information. The more real-time information front-line people have, the more “neat stuff” happens.

29. Take sabbaticals.

30. “Repot” yourself every 10 years.

31. Spend half your time with “outsiders.” Distributors and vendors will give you more ideas in five minutes than another five-hour committee meeting.

32. Spend half your “outsider time” with whacko outsiders.

33. Pursue alternative rhythms. Spend a year on a farm, six months building houses in Costa Rica.

34. Spread confusion in your wake. Keep people off balance: Don’t let the ruts get deeper than they already are.

35. Dis-organize. Bureaucracy takes care of itself. The boss should be “chief dis-organizer,” says Quad/Graphics CEO Harry Quadracci.

36. “Dis-equilibrate … create instability even chaos.” Good advice to “real leaders” from Professor Warren Bennis.

37. Stir curiosity. Igniting youthful curiosity in followers is the lead dog’s top task, per Sony Chairman Akio Morita.

38. Start a Corporate Traitors Hall of Fame. “Renegades” are not enough; you need people who despise what you stand for.

39. Give out “Culture Scud Awards.” Your best friend is the person who attacks your corporate culture head-on. Wish her well!

40. Vary your pattern. Eat a different breakfast cereal. Take a different route to work.

41. Take off your jacket.

42. Take off your tie.

43. Roll up your sleeves.

44. Take off your shoes.

45. Get out of your office. Tell me, honestly, the last time something creative happened at that big table in your office?!

46. Get rid of your office.

47. Spend a work day each week at home.

48. Nurture peripheral vision. Most interesting “stuff” goes on beyond the professional’s ever narrowing line of sight.

49. Don’t “help.” Let people slip and trip—and grow and learn. As a manager, you earn the bulk of your pay for zipping your lips and letting them stumble forward.

50. Avoid moderation in all things.

(C) 1991 TPG Communications.

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