Today’s guest is Tom Peters, best-selling author of the groundbreaking book In Search of Excellence, which changed the way the world viewed the connection between corporate culture and the success of a business. His newest book, The Excellence Dividend, is likewise original, commanding, and cutting-edge.
Takeaways from the episode:
- We often use “excellence” to refer to things of an artistic nature, such as in dancing or music, but it has deep applications in business as well. Just as an orchestra is a collection of individuals combining to create something bigger than themselves, so is a business, with each person and department contributing to the excellence of the greater whole.
- Excellence is an offensive strategy, meaning that instead of reacting defensively within companies we need to be pro-active in creating a culture that will inspire excellence. This becomes a differentiator between good companies and great companies.
- Work harder than anybody else. You can’t always be the smartest person in the room, but if you work harder and longer than anyone else you’ll still pull ahead.
- Never stop reading, never stop learning, never stop studying. It is arrogance to believe that you will always stay ahead of the curve if you are not actively pursuing ways to stay there. Tom Peters recently took a year off just to focus on reading books and learning to understand what other influencers have to say about the world, and he still considers himself only educated enough to have “intelligent conversations with people who are at the front of the curve.” Excellence is a moment to moment way of life.
- Treat every single person as the most important person in the world. It will win you friends, but it will also change you. As you are willing to see others in that way it will change how you see yourself.
Forty years ago, Tom was tasked with creating a last-minute presentation for a client after a computer failure wreaked havoc on his company’s original plans. Not wanting to disappoint his wife, who had tickets to the San Francisco ballet that night, Tom delayed working on the presentation until after watching what he describes as a “mesmerizing” performance. After returning home, Tom couldn’t get what he considered the “excellence” of the performance out of his head and began wondering why that word—which is so often associated with artists, dancers, and even sports teams—was never associated with business.
“[I]t’s not that I was off to the races. Nobody took it seriously. The skies did not part. But…it just kind of got stuck in my head because we all love excellence.”
Despite naysayers (of which there were many), Tom’s idea resonated with his audience and continued to evolve, leading a few years later to the publication of In Search of Excellence, which has been regarded by some as one of the most influential business books of all time.
Join us as we discuss his professional journey, the importance of studying, and, naturally, what it means to be excellent. Listen to the full episode below or on iTunes, and if you enjoy the show please consider clicking here to leave us a review.
Links from the Show and Transcript
In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman
“Managing our Way to Economic Decline” by Robert H. Hayes and William J. Abernathy
Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance by Louis V. Gerstner
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