The Fortune Guy Is the One With the Problem
There's a Fortune article on a Goldman guy who quit. ("The Man Who Walked Away from Goldman Sachs," William Cohan, 0208.10.) The Goldman guy was worried about Goldman doing a header like Lehman. The Fortune guy wrote: ""If Goldman's stock went to zero as Lehman Brothers' had ... then Winkelried's decades of hard work would be vaporized in the blip of a Bloomberg screen."
What a horror. Namely, the fact that the Fortune guy could produce that sentence, presumably with no sense of irony.
Suppose my net worth was 100.000% wiped out this morning. I would be unhappy. Very unhappy.
But if my net worth went to zero, the value of my last several decades of work would be precisely the same, for good or for ill, as it had been before the net worth tanked.
That is, my net worth and the usefulness (if any) of my work are not related except indirectly.
I think finance is absolutely a centerpiece of our economic well-being. Hence I trust that Mr. Winkelried has done work of value to my country and the world in his decades at Goldman Sachs. I assume, in fact, that there should be a multiplier—that is, the economic usefulness of Mr. Winkelried's work is a multiple of his compensation; he's hopefully been a "net contributor" to our collective well-being.
So it's sad that the Fortune guy would only imagine valuing Mr. Winkelried in terms of his net worth—and thence assigning no societal economic value to Mr. Winkelried's decades of 20-hour days.
I know nothing about Mr. Winkelried. But I think the Fortune guy has a whopper of a problem.
(This Post is from the Auckland airport, as I await a flight to Nelson.)
Tom Peters posted this on 01/28/2010.
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What is Excellence?
[Our guest blogger is Seth Godin, who needs no further introduction here. We'd like to thank him very much for this, his first post at tompeters.com.]
Twenty-five years ago, my life (and yours, too, probably) was changed by Tom and Bob's book, In Search of Excellence. After that, on a regular basis, Tom has provided us with shots of brilliance and unsettling reminders that we've got a long way to go to reach our potential as organizations and individuals.
Along the way, there's a question that's been nibbled at but never really answered. I mean, I already know many of the 687 ways to create excellence and the imperatives of excellence, but what is it, really?
At first, organizations got excited about the formula: excellence = quality. If we can meet spec, regularly and on budget, we win.
But the quality mantra only takes you so far.
Take, for example, my water company. Are they excellent? Every time I turn on the tap, water comes out. The bills aren't outrageous. I never need to call them. Are they excellent? Or boring?
What about the local grocery or the other boring commodity providers in my life? By my definition, once you start providing a commodity that your customers treat as a commodity, you're no longer excellent.
Here's my take:
Excellence means that you're indispensable. At least right now, in this moment, there's no one else I would choose but you. You, the excellent one, are so surprising, so delightful, so over-the-top and, yes, so human that there really isn't anyone else I'd rather dance with.
The "in the moment" nature of excellence makes it a moving target. JetBlue was excellent, for a while, but then others started catching up and new management started slowing down. Suddenly, it wasn't a JetBlue flight any more, it was just a flight. Easy to switch to Virgin Atlantic or someone else.
Excellence isn't about meeting the spec, it's about setting the spec. It defines what the consumer sees as quality right this minute, and tomorrow, if you're good, you'll reset that expectation again.
The surefire way to achieve excellence, then, is not to create a written spec and match it. The surefire way is to be human. To be artistic: to make a connection with the customer and to somehow change them for the better. The reason Tom and I and others can continue to write about excellence twenty-five years later is that we're not writing about business at all. We're writing about people.
When the Ritz-Carlton hotel empowers every employee from chambermaid to manager to "make things right," they're not engaging in the sort of quality control most managers are comfortable with. In fact, if they were able to write down exactly what to do in every situation, the excellence factor would disappear. What the hotel accomplishes with its policy is this: they challenge their employees to become artists.
The art of connection, the art of being human, the art of making a difference. Artists do things that have never been done before. They dig deep to create passion. They connect by changing things for the better.
The economy has been better, and the economy has been worse. Through it all, the market seeks out, recognizes, and embraces artists, people we can't live without. That's our opportunity right now.
To be excellent means you must be an artist.
Seth Godin posted this on 01/26/2010.
[See Seth Godin's new book, Linchpin. It's about art and gifts and connection and yes, excellence.]
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What Matters Now, on Paper
We gave you a heads up when What Matters Now, the ebook that Seth Godin put together with the help of over 70 friends, became available. (You're welcome. How could we keep something that fantastic a secret?) Now you can order a paperback with all proceeds going to one of our favorite non-profits, Room to Read.
Shelley Dolley posted this on 01/25/2010.
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Last week Florence!
[See the small picture sample.]
This week doing taping for Audiobook version of coming Little BIG Things—8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shut in a vacuum—in a 6 foot by 6 foot room.
Tom Peters posted this on 01/22/2010.
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Brand You: Work on Your Writing
Tom reminds us that writing is a craft to be honed in the latest video from The Little BIG Things video series. You can find the video on the top of the right column here on the front page of tompeters.com, or by clicking here. The transcript is available as a pdf. If you'd like to see previously posted videos in the series, be sure to visit our Video page (direct link to TLBT video series).
Shelley Dolley posted this on 01/21/2010.
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I was in Cannes this time last week, giving a speech to Adecco's top couple of hundred folks. I did not fall in love with Cannes (wretched excess too much, especially in these times). Uncharacteristically, I did "fall in love" with Adecco. (I don't normally allow myself to go more or less gaga over a client.) First, as Mr. Brand You, I do believe that "temping" (in many many formats) will be the way of the world for many more of us in the future than in the past—including for the Gray Tsunami. Forces at work include: Project-based organizations, especially those that need to integrate a shifting portfolio of skills; a Big Recession hangover that will continue to make companies skittish about adding FTEs and keep them obsessed with flexibility-adaptability; economic performance driven by the development and application of intellectual capital, the development of which tends to agglomerate in temporary ways. Adecco not only "gets this," but unlike many of its competitors seems truly committed to development of its "temps"—again, the latter plays into the hands of the "forces at work" enumerated above.
After Cannes, I made a six hour drive to Florence to join Susan for six days of "vacation." I put vacation in quotes, because if the home of the Renaissance doesn't get you thinking and refresh your mind in at least a quasi-professional way, I don't know what will. (To be sure, try as one might, one's thinking may be made a bit sluggish by the Constant Carb Assaults.)
I'm sure a passel of readers with art history degrees (surely we have at least one such reader, eh?) could do justice to the art and cathedrals—but not me. I was on a 6-day "shock & awe" junket, though it was hardly my first visit to Florence. "Shock & Awe"? Yes, it was simply and literally overwhelming; e.g., the magnificent Uffizi gallery, a solid candidate for "world's best." (I left it emotionally drained.)
But as the bankers were bashed at home last week, the story in 14th century Florence was also of bankers, in many cases offending sensibilities to the point that they were offed. Florence is home to the Renaissance and home to the de Medici's, who dominated the commercial sphere in a way that makes today's finance gang look lightweight—both in terms of influence and wretched excess. The de Medicis also commissioned much of the art, wonderful indeed, world-changing beyond a shadow of doubt—but, like today, much of it for their exclusive use. (They also more or less bought the Papacy upon occasion.) (NB: In the same vein, one of Bach's patrons had him imprisoned—another burned some of his music. Ah, the volatile moods of the super-rich!)
"All this" also made me think of globalization, which was also very much alive and very much in good health, save a bloody war here and there and there and here, during the Renaissance-de Medici epoch. Among other things, those thoughts led me to resurrect a marvelous quote from a 2008 article by Peter Jones and Lionel Casson in the Spectator, titled "For Real Globalization, Look at Ancient Rome":
"There is nothing new about a global world. We were living in one 2,000 years ago. ... The Roman in the street ate bread baked with wheat grown in North Africa or Egypt, and fish that had been caught and dried near Gibraltar, He cooked with North African oil in pots and pans of cooper mined in Spain, ate off dishes fired in French kilns, drank wine from Spain or France. ... The Roman of wealth dressed in garments of wool from Miletus or linen from Egypt; his wife wore silks from China, adorned herself with diamonds and pearls from India, and made up with cosmetics from South Arabia. ... He lived in a house whose walls were covered with colored marble veneer quarried in Asia Minor; his furniture was of Indian ebony or teak inlaid with African ivory."
The more things change ...
But, uh, none of the above is about why this Post is titled "Mea Culpa"!
The "mea culpa" refers to my absorbing "distraction" (attraction) during the trip. Namely, Twitter. First, I like Twitter as a communication tool, though I plead guilty as charged by some in terms of mostly using it as a one-way communication vehicle—no small sin. Second, I find the 140-character limit a magnificent challenge! I am in the "beginner's mind" mode—and I am definitely learning anew that "practice makes better," or so I assume and hope. I believe that one can have a full-scale "opinion piece" on a serious topic that occupies 140 characters or less. Hence, I am choosing mostly to use Twitter as a straightforward opinion registry, and am leaving the mega-link practice to many many many others. In short, there are a host of things I really really give a shit about—I've been saying my piece in as many settings as possible for over 35 years, and I'm not inclined to stop; as I recently tweeted, my "live stuff" has absorbed about 5 or 6 million miles and about 9,000 flight legs since 1973.
I love our Friends & Family here at tompeters.com, but am a linear focuser more than a multi-tasker, so Twitter-Am-Mostly-Me at the moment.
Tom Peters posted this on 01/20/2010.
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Link Roundup #11
Here's a collection of items from news and blogs and friends that we'd like to pass on for the beginning of the new year.
Out of possibly zillions, here's a selection of lists and suggestions for how to survive and thrive in 2010:
• Twelve Resolutions on How to be a Mensch, by Bruna Martinuzzi
• Ten Things I Know for 2010, from Ian Sanders
• How to Take Advantage of Social Media in Your Email Marketing from American Express Open Forum
• Ten Practical Tips for Saving Money on Travel from the New York Times
Cool Friend Andrea Learned sent us this trend prediction for 2010: Sustainability Communication.
Lots of fun, this one came to us in the emails. Out of the box (not to say out of control) ideas for consulting at BBC.co.uk: Listen to Peter Day's interview with Neil Mullarkey on comedy and Peter Cook on rock 'n roll. Or use this link.
Also from the emails, a unique idea: Jingle-a-Day for a year.
And finally, "Hire My Friend" is a free application on Facebook that allows you to promote your job-seeker friends within your friend network by announcing their candidacy in your Live/News feed, and placing an information box about them on your profile. Or, become a fan of "Hire My Friend."
Cathy Mosca posted this on 01/14/2010.
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Our Hearts Go Out to the Earthquake Victims in Haiti
If you'd like to make a donation or learn more about how you can help, here are some useful links:
The White House website
Cathy Mosca posted this on 01/13/2010.
American Red Cross
Partners in Health
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Excellence Slides: Adecco
Adecco, headquartered in Glattbrugg, Switzerland, is the world's largest temporary employment organization, with revenues of over $25 billion and almost 6,000 offices worldwide. Its business is actually boosted by employers' reluctance to add full-time payroll employees amid wobbly economic conditions. Please weigh in by commenting under this post if you attended the event. Let us hear from you! And if you'd like the slides, you can use these links:
Tom is in Cannes at the moment, and, if you follow him on Twitter, you know he finds it a bit over the top. But right now, in terms of weather, it has to beat Vermont!
Cathy Mosca posted this on 01/12/2010.
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Brand You: Start Something Dull
Tom shares the story of two men who, by doing very dull things, have made a lot of money in a new video from The Little BIG Things video series. You can find the video on the top of the right column here on the front page of tompeters.com, or by clicking here. The transcript is available as a pdf. If you'd like to see previously posted videos in the series, be sure to visit our Video page (direct link to TLBT video series).
Shelley Dolley posted this on 01/07/2010.
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In today's Washington Post, David Ignacious concludes his article titled "Two attacks highlight counterterrorism's bureaucratic bog" with these lines:
The late CIA Director William Casey insisted that employees read the management classic In Search of Excellence to encourage every officer to take personal responsibility for solving problems, rather than kicking them on to the next guy in line. CIA Director Leon Panetta should use these searing events to foster a culture of initiative and accountability at a CIA that wants to do the job—but that needs leadership and reform.
Needless to say, Tom is extremely flattered to be mentioned.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 01/06/2010.
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Swashbuckling: Bo vs Zorro
In a blog post titled "Business Book(s) of the Year," Tom named George Whalin's Retail Superstars as his #1 for 2009. Why? Tom says, "I think Whalin's message is perfect for 2009. We will, over the long haul, rebound from our colossal economic and unemployment mess on the backs of our entrepreneurs. The big guys may re-stock their payrolls a bit, but the generals, GE and GM, ain't the answer. And among the entrepreneurs, only a few, statistically, will be from Silicon Valley. To be sure, the best of the sexy entrepreneurs spawn whole new industries, but the blocking and tackling when it comes to jobs and productivity will come from Sevierville TN and Fairfield and Hartville OH and Frankenmuth MI and a hundred hundred other towns and small cities whose names, mostly, you haven't heard of."
Tom goes on to mention that a great companion book to Whalin's is Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham.
In response, one of our frequent commenters, who goes by the name of Zorro, posted:
Tom seems determined to have the US become a second rate power. The companies covered in Small Giants include a deli, a record company, a beer company, and a company that makes those things that go "beep-beep" when a truck backs up. The Retail Superstars covers nothing but retail stores. Somehow this is going to transform our economy—if it does, it will make it look exactly like it did from 2001–2008. Meanwhile, China has just turned on the world's fastest train route. We make great sandwiches, beer, and back up alarms—the Chinese put in place the world's fastest commuter train.
Bo Burlingham then weighed in:
Well, Zorro, I have to wonder if you actually read Retail Superstars, or Small Giants, for that matter. George Whalin made absolutely no claim that the companies he was writing about were going to "transform the economy," nor did I make any such claim about the Small Giants. That wasn't the point of either book, and that mentality has nothing to do with why Tom liked them. My point was that bigness and greatness have nothing to do with one another. George's point was that the greatest retailers (judged by the standards of their industry, which are the only ones that matter) are actually the independents. You may think that such companies are unimportant, but the U.S. economy would collapse without them. Are you aware, for example, that 50% of the US workforce works in companies with 20 to 500 employees? That's where all the innovation is coming from as well. Why? Because big companies are bad at it. That's why they buy small innovative businesses. That segment of the economy is essentially America's R&D lab. Among other things, they are coming up with the innovations that are going to utterly transform the world of manufacturing in the next 10 years and deprive China of its cheap labor advantage—because the labor component will become far less important than the ability to develop effective business systems and management, which is an area in which the Chinese stink. And where do you think the major manufacturing industries of today—the innovations that have created our world—have come from? Did you miss the 1980s and 1990s? I do worry about the future of that kind of entrepreneurship in this country, but the big threat comes not from China and India, but from our own protectionists, big unions, and government over-regulation. (See Sarbanes-Oxley, and then ask yourself why there were no IPOs in 2008, and how that stymied the development of the manufacturing powerhouses you apparently believe are important to our future.) As for the Retail Superstars and the Small Giants, they have a different role to play that is every bit as important as "making things." (And BTW, the back-up alarm/emergency light company you deride makes a lot of things, and it's the world leader in what it makes.) Those companies are the heart and soul, not just of our economy, but of our society. They are community leaders in thousands of cities and towns around the United States. Their practices shape the communities we live in, the values we live by, and the quality of the lives we lead. Yes, they are anathema to big labor, because they aren't unionized. That's why big labor is pushing card checks. Then again, their working standards and efficiency far exceed that of the unionized giants, whose lunches they regularly eat.
Cathy Mosca posted this on 01/06/2010.
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The Sunday New York Times had a special section called "Education Life." One article, "Career U.," describes some of the changes we might expect in university education. For example, the president of the University of Michigan was surprised (to put it mildly) when she learned five years ago that 10% of incoming freshmen, some 600, had started their own businesses while in high school. She and her colleagues responded by creating about 100 entrepreneurship courses. The article tickles our imagination by describing a few of the more inventive new master's programs:
- Learning to listen. (Narrative medicine.)
- Homeland security.
- Urban environment. (Sustainability.)
- Sustainable cultures. (Beyond environmental sustainability.)
- Education leadership.
- Cars of the Future.
- Construction management. (Hmmm, I got one of those from Cornell in 1966, with the diploma coming by mail to Hue, South Vietnam, where I was doing, yes, construction management for the U.S. Navy. What goes around comes around, I guess.)
- Specialized MBAs. (E.g., market research, energy, pharmaceutical management, wine and spirits at ESSEC B-school near Paris.)
- New media.
All in all, a worthwhile read.
[Above, snow, 3 January 2010—about a 2-foot accumulation.]
Tom Peters posted this on 01/05/2010.
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Wrapped Up on January 3
The votes are in, and on the third day of the year I'm ready to award the "Quote of the Year Award 2010," yes, with 362 days to go. (360 at the time of this Post.)
It has long been my contention that, while there is surely such a thing as "towering competence," I nonetheless believe that the overwhelming majority of the Wall Street Geniuses are worth their weight in a lot less than gold—horse manure occurs as I gaze out my office window to my Tinmouth VT barnyard.
An excellent article by an excellent author marked the cover of the first 2010 issue of the New York Times Magazine; namely "What's a Banker Really Worth," by Steven Brill. It is an excellent (and dense, lengthy) read, and by no means a hatchet job.
While the article is astonishingly balanced, the defendants keep failing to take the Fifth Amendment. One banker who spoke to Brill said, defending the need to continue sky-high compensation, and, additionally, not defer it:
"A lot of our folks have second and third homes and alimony payments and other obligations that require substantial current cash."
No, with a nod to Dave Barry, I'm not making this up.
The sentence not only takes the 2010 quote of the year award, but it also goes into the dictionary as Definition #1 of "They just don't get it."
Any further explanation or editorialization would be gratuitous.
Tom Peters posted this on 01/05/2010.
Repeat: "A lot of our folks have second and third homes and alimony payments and other obligations that require substantial current cash."
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We Did It!
"We Did It!" is the title of this week's cover story in the Economist. The occasion is women surpassing the 50% mark in the U.S. workforce. The Economist's "Leader" calls it "the rich world's quiet revolution": "Women's economic empowerment is arguably the biggest social change of our times. Just a generation ago, women were largely confined to repetitive, menial jobs. ... Now, millions of brains have been put to more productive use. Societies that try to resist this trend—most notably the Arab countries, but also Japan and some southern European countries—will pay a heavy price in the form of wasted talent and frustrated citizens." Moreover, the Economist notes, as have others, that with girls and women dominating in terms of educational performance and sheer volume of university degrees, especially advanced professional degrees, this "trend" is quickly becoming a tsunami.
This has been a—or even the—issue nearest and dearest to my heart since 1996, and I am thrilled by the stats and the recognition alike. Maybe, corporations will begin to take product-service development and marketing to women more seriously. This is still, in 9.63 out of 10 cases, a great void–monster opportunity (e.g. when even a single movie comes along, like It's Complicated, aimed at women, particularly boomer women, it's treated as Big News).
Tom Peters posted this on 01/05/2010.
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"The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, then men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine 'gendercide' in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century."
"All told, girls in India from one to five years of age are 50 percent more likely to die than boys the same age. The best estimate is that a little Indian girl dies from discrimination every four minutes."
Larry Summers (during his World Bank days): "Investment in girls' education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world."
Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors Without Borders: "Progress is achieved through women."
N'yet. Despite the Economist's cheery cover story, we've got a long way to go on women's issues worldwide. To get the story you can do no better than to read Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. (All of the quotes above come from Half the Sky.) If this book doesn't "get to you," I can't imagine what would. The stats and stories are nothing short of astounding. As the title suggests, there is good news to accompany the bad—that is, examples of stuff that works. The journalists acknowledge that they are on a mission. The last chapter is titled "What You Can Do: Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes."
I cannot recommend this book highly enough—and, likewise, I recommend that you do consider becoming part of the solution. Despite the staggering size of the problem, you and I can help. Or, rather, how could we choose not to help?
[Below, fall apples, past prime.]
Tom Peters posted this on 01/05/2010.
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I know that a fair number of my friends read this Blog from time to time, and as we head into the new year, I want to offer a heartfelt blanket apology. I have been remiss in my communications—including many non-responses to rather urgent professional and personal emails.
I am sorry!
While rudeness allows no mitigating circumstances, I can only say lamely in partial defense that the last six months have been marked by unexpected and unremitting book pressure. It was precisely July 4th week that I began to re-work the rough draft. For reasons mostly of stupidity, I though it would take a bit of "touching up."
There have been no more than a few days respite for six rather grueling months—including a 2-week August "vacation" in New Zealand during which I edited (re-wrote) from more or less 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. each and every day. (Total number of hikes: 0.)
Tom Peters posted this on 01/04/2010.
It's been worth it, alas, even the rudeness. Which is not to say the book is worth a damn. It may well not be worth a damn, but it is always worth infinite effort, to one's limits, to try and make something that allows one to occasionally say, "Not bad." At this point, with my work (and that of Erik, Cathy, Shelley) more or less done, I'm going through that horrendous phase when I am powerless—and yet am certain I have produced a pile of crap.
We shall see.
But, again my apologies for behavior that, though beyond my control (no kidding—book writing is for me a garden-variety addiction), is still shameful!
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What we're talking about on the front page.