In 2006 or maybe 2007, Jack Covert and I were invited to an event that Tom Peters was holding in Vermont. There were probably 150 people there, people from all parts of Tom’s world—corporate executives with their teams, mavericks that Tom would call out during the talks for their inspirational strategies and practices, and a couple of booksellers from Milwaukee.
Tom was in top form. He had his decks. He was changing them during breaks, reworking them again overnight.
Tom was the coach that business people needed.
“What we are all doing doesn’t make any sense!
Here look at this…”
You would get the countercultural, counterintuitive quote and the story about why this mattered now.
A few years later, I would write about In Search of Excellence and say:
“Peters and Waterman arrived at a conclusion about the success of an organization that couldn’t be more different from those early theories on business organization: people are irrational and the structures that organize them must account for that. This argument was 180 degrees counter to the historical modeling of business organizations after the military approach, in which managers fixated on the control of their homogenous teams while following the established five-year strategic plan. Instead, Peters and Waterman advocate humanistic values, including meaning, a small amount of control, and positive reinforcement as a postmilitaristic model. The conclusion is that the soft stuff matters. Culture matters. People matter.”
We still haven’t gotten the message Tom was trying to share.
Before that, I remember going through Re-Imagine, his 2003 book, and thinking how remarkable it was that Tom drew inspiration from so many books. I tracked down 81 books and recorded them in a blog post at 800ceoread. The post is long gone but it lives on at the Wayback Machine.
Check out this list…
- The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning – Henry Mintzberg
- In Search of Excellence – Tom Peters and Bob Waterman
- Warrior Politics – Robert Kaplan
- Genome – Matt Ridley
- Hypercompetition – Rich D’Aveni
- Whoever Makes The Most Mistakes Wins – Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes
- Out of Control – Kevin Kelly
- Serious Play – Michael Schrage
- Funky Business – Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale
- Organizing Genius – Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
- Creative Destruction – Dick Foster and Sarah Kaplan
- The Innnovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
- Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation – Jim Utterback
- The Synergy Trap – Mark Sirower
- Rise of the Virtual State – Richard Rosecrance
- John Adams – David McCullough
- A Necessary Evil – Gary Wills
- Good to Great – Jim Collins
- The Living Company – Arie de Geus
- Cluetrain Manifesto – Locke, Levine, Searls, and Weinberger
- Small Pieces Loosely Joined – David Weinberger
- Smart Mobs – Howard Reingold
- Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
- The Age of the Never Satisfied Customer – Regis McKenna
- The Company – John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge
- How To Grow When Markets Don’t – Adrian Slywotzky
- Lifting The Fog of War – Admiral Bill Owens
- The Synonym Finder – J.I. Rodale
- The Experience Economy – Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore
- The Random House Dictionary of the English Language
- Disruption – Jean-Marie Dru
- Pour Your Heart Into It – Howard Schultz
- The Design of Everyday Things – Donald Norman
- Reengineering the Corporation – Michael Hammer and Jim Champy
- success@life – Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold
- A New Brand World – Scott Bedbury
- Doug Hall – Jump Start Your Business Brain
- Leading Minds – Howard Gardner
- In A Different Voice – Carol Gilligan
- America’s Competitive Secret: Women Managers – Judy Rosener
- Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps – Barbara Pease and Allan Pease
- Clicking – Faith Popcorn
- Why We Buy – Paco Underhill
- GenderSell: How to Sell to the Opposite Sex – Judith Tingley
- EVEolution: The Eight Great Truths of Marketing to Women – Faith Popcorn and Lys Marigold
- Age Power: How the 21st Century Will Be Ruled By The New
- Old – Ken Dychtwald
- Marketing to the Mindset of Boomers and Their Elders – Carol Morgan and Doran Levy
- The Leader’s Voice – Boyd Clarke and Ron Crossland
- Raving Fans – Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
- The Princesssa: Machiavelli for Women – Harriet Rubin
- The Project50 – Tom Peters
- Cities and Civilization – Peter Hall
- Rise of the Expert Company – Ed Feigenbaum
- Polite Revolutionary: Lessons from an Uncivil Servant – Bob Stone
- Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance – Lou Gerstner
- The Rise of the Creative Class – Richard Florida
- The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History – Philip Bobbit
- Free Agent Nation – Dan Pink
- The Brand You50 – Tom Peters
- Corporate Religion – Jesper Kunde
- Thriving in 24/7 – Sally Helgesen
- Soloing – Harriet Rubin
- Future Wealth – Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer
- The First Sex: The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World – Helen Fisher
- Selling is a Women’s Game: Fifteen Powerful Reasons Why Women Can Outsell Men – Nicki Joy and Susan Kane-Benson
- I Don’t Know How She Does It – Allison Pearson
- Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace – Gordon MacKenzie
- Aha! – Jordan Ayan
- A Different Kind of Teacher – John Taylor Gatto
- Insult to Intelligence – Frank Smith
- Courage to Teach – Parker Palmer
- Socrates Cafe – Christopher Phillips
- Education and Ecstasy – George Leonard
- Becoming Adult – Mihaly Csikszentmihaly and Barbara Schneider
- The Unschooled Mind – Howard Gardner
- Beyond Disruption – Jean-Marie Dru
- Wide Angle Vision: Beat Your Competition by Focusing on Fringe Competitors, Lost Customers, and Rogue Employees – Wayne Burkan
- Weird Ideas that Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation – Bob Sutton
- On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Before that, much before that, I owned a set of cassette tapes. The six tape, 12 part set was a recording of Tom in front of a live audience. At the time, I was living in rural Wisconsin and there was plenty of windshield time to listen to those tapes between destinations.
A few years ago, I tracked down a set of the tapes on Ebay and paid my son to transfer them from tape to mp3. Unfortunately, the process didn’t work great—either the cassette player we bought couldn’t keep a constant speed or the tapes from 1991 were just getting too old. The digital recordings have these skips every 30 to 60 seconds.
When Tom announced he was retiring last week, I pulled the recordings back out to see if I could find one of them I could share without the transfer mishaps.
I am happy to say I found one. This is the final segment—side 12 of Tom Peters LIVE. The topic is delegation, and like all of Tom’s rants, it is about much more than delegation.
So, rather than some pithy attempt at trying to describe the impact of Tom’s work on me and millions of people, I’ll just end with Tom’s own words and hit the road.