"Excellent firms of tomorrow will cherish impermanence-and thrive on chaos." Tom Peters
1. Obsess on Renewal! [What have I done about it ... TODAY?]
2. Hang out more with kids [< 25] who really "get this stuff."
3. Read more truly weird stuff ... esp. from the biotech world.
4. Read more good fiction!
5. Go to at least two seriously kooky conferences.
6. Listen more. Talk less. [Remind myself of this every waking moment!]
7. STOP LETTING THE "URGENT BUT NOT TRULY IMPORTANT" DRIVE OUT THE "TRULY IMPORTANT BUT NOT SO APPARENTLY URGENT"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
8. START ON MY NEXT TWO BOOKS. ASAP.
9. FINISH MY NEXT TWO BOOKS. ASAP.
10. On every clear-and-not-too-cold-Vermont-day, go rowing on Lake St. Catherine in my Adirondack Guide Boat.
11. Extend my current workout streak from 36 to 401!
12. Take longer breaks! Take more naps! [Fresh rules! At all ages!]
13. Keep all the bird feeders full during the long Vermont winter!
14. Keep pushing "The Work Matters" Movement!! [Smash Dilbertian Cynicism!]
15. Spread the Gospel of the Importance of Great/Cool Design! [It's my Next B-i-g Thing.] [Corollary: Push the Arts + Creativity in Education! [Good luck, tom!]]
16. Remember how lucky I am to be alive in 2000! [With all this cool stuff going down!] Remember II/Emile Zola: If you ask me what I have come to do in this world, I who am an artist, I will reply, I am here to live my life out loud.
17. Pay much more attention to those who are "missing out on all this cool Silicon Valley shit." [E.g.: The three richest Americans are more wealthy than the 48 poorest nations!][DO SOMETHING!][Horace Mann, founder, Antioch College, courtesy Warren Bennis: Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity.]
18. Remember to say "Thank You"! Always!
Ohmygawd ... passion is not enough! In the last five days The Wall Streeet Journal has had two feature pieces on passionate-obsessed CEOs who’ve run into big trouble: Doug Ivester of Coke and Bob Shapiro of Monsanto.
Ivester replaced God ... Roberto Goizeuta. And soon Coke was on the skids. Ivester’s problem: a major dose of political insensitivity. He demoted Coke’s top African-American exec, a political power in Atlanta, as Coke faced a major discrimination suit.
(The demoted exec, Carl Ware, quit.) Ivester blew the Belgian tainted-Coke problem by not showing up.
(Like the idiot chairman at Exxon who failed to go to Alaska after the Valdez spill.) Ivester also grappled with the government of France showing no flexibility over the ultimately failed effort to take over Orangina.
And then he mouthed off, in Brazil, about automatically changing upward the price of Cokes at machines when it got especially hot.
("In a final summer championship, when people meet in a stadium to have fun, the utility of a cold Coca-Cola is very high. So it is fair that it should be more expensive. The machine will simply make this process automatic.")
(I guess I should be thrilled: It is 11F outside in Vermont as I write; so I suppose the nearby Grand Union grocery is giving Cokes away!)
Ivester, all agree, is a Coke fanatic ... and insanely smart. And in each case he had a v-e-r-y logical reason for his decision: In the case of African-American exec Carl Ware, Ivester was logically reorganizing to reduce an overextended span of control.
In Belgium, he’d been told his presence would be disruptive.
In France, it wasn’t the government’s business to interfere. (Guess he never studied French history.) In obscenely wealthy Brazil (ho ho) ... well, any fool understands the sublime and universal validity of the basic laws of supply and demand (as taught by the numerate nerds at your local B.School).
I won’t miss Ivester. Two years ago, as I recall, I was very un-P.C. while in Atlanta: I said there was only one person in Atlanta I wouldn’t want to meet ... Doug Ivester.
He’d just been quoted in Business Week or Fortune, as I recall, as saying, in response to a question about how to deal with a Pepsi marketing mistake: "When someone’s drowning, stick a hose in their mouth and turn the water on full."
(Or words to that effect.) I AM A STAUNCH BELIEVER IN COMPETITION. I AM INSANELY COMPETITIVE. BUT I DON’T WANT PETER DRUCKER TO BE HIT BY A BUS. In short, I found Ivester’s remark to be in appalling taste. (The fact that loudmouth Roger Enrico, who runs PepsiCo, is almost as strident is no excuse.)
Add it all up, and you have a case of a brilliant, fanatic competitor ... with a tin ear. Running anything, especially a global competitor which often looks like a marketplace bully, requires political skills ... and at least a slight nod to humanity. Ivester apparently comes up short on both scores.
I, for one, will not miss him. Bye, bye Dougie.
Shapiro’s case at Monsanto is at once very different ... and somewhat the same. His vision, and it was a Vision, was to turn the once stodgy chemical company into a model life sciences powerhouse.
New biotech findings would power a vast array of bio-engineered drugs and foods. The Vision was created with the aid of many environmentalists, among others. And then the worm and some of his most ardent supporters turned. Namely, the biotech backlash of late, especially in foods.
The Journal faulted Shapiro for having no sense of the grocery shopper. (Probably true ... that hasn’t been exactly Monsanto’s historic forte.)
Shapiro is also chided for surrounding himself with yes-men. ("Friends of Bob.") In any event, Monsanto will be merged into Pharmacia, it’s been announced; the biotech business of Shapiro’s dreams may be spun off; and the man himself is tagged for a non-executive role.
I’m much more sympathetic to Shapiro than Ivester. I’ve heard from rather close sources that he really did believe in his Dream and the worthiness thereof. That’s commendable. (More big companies need such boldness!)
The signals he missed could have been missed by anyone; Silicon Valley folks blow decisions like this every day; the individual corporate consequences, however, are usually lower (just another start-up or ten down the tubes).
In any event there are lessons to be learned: Passion alone won’t cut it! Sensitivity to one’s surroundings (Ivester) and the Grace of Good Timing (Shapiro) must also be on your side.
I am not appalled by the recently revealed New York teacher test-abetting scandal!
WE ARE GETTING EXACTLY WHAT WE DESERVE BY OVEREMPHASIZING STANDARDIZED TESTS ... AND DRIVING TEACHERS TO MINDLESSLY AND FURIOUSLY "TEACH TO TEST."
Of course I think that what the N.Y. teachers did -- helping students with answers on standardized tests -- was wrong. Horribly wrong.
Those teachers transgressed. Period. But the transgression is at the same time a direct byproduct of a fatally flawed approach to education at the century-millennium's turn.
We need a school system that cherishes deviance from the norm. (Hey, I'm a Silicon Valley guy: What else is an entrepreneur if not a "deviant" out to topple the established order?
P.S.: Every one who "makes the history books" -- from M.L. King, Jr. to Picasso to Copernicus to Glorious Steinem -- is a deviant. No?)
And what we've got instead is a school system that's a holdover from the Ford (as in Model T) era; a system designed to turn out automatons who'd stoically put up with the brutal dullness of a 1920 auto plant.
Their modern day equivalent: Dilbertian "cubicle slaves."
Former Hallmark creative exec Gordon MacKenzie, spending time in retirement in the schools, pegged it exactly right: "Every school I visited was engaged in a conspiracy to suppress creativity." (MacKenzie's lovely-profound book?
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace.)
Amen, Brother MacKenzie! And our "answer" to all this: a "reformed" system ever more geared to standardization, as exhibited especially by the exponentially increased attraction to ... STANDARDIZED TESTS!
And since "teacher accountability" is a parallel buzztool, we demand that ... EVERY DAMNED TEACHER DELIVER HIGHER TEST SCORES ... OR ELSE!!
Again, I'm in favor of teacher accountability. Accountability ... for leading students to love learning for life; accountability for pouring gasoline on the creative spark that smolders within virtually every one of us.
No, I don't condone what the teachers did. How could I? But I hold in far greater contempt their tragically misguided "superiors," including 50 governors determined to win "The Great Standardized Test Score War." Give me a break!
Or, hey, guvs, didja hear the Model T ain't gonna make a comeback? Try the Model B [Bill] "I don't have a degree" Gates!
THE CHANNEL YOU CLICK TO FIRST IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM IS SHOWING ... CAMEL RACES. [Tom in Dubai 12-5.]
YOUR CAB DRIVER TALKS TO YOU ABOUT THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMS YOU HE'S TAKING COURSES IN LATIN SO THAT HE CAN BETTER UNDERSTAND THE WARP AND WEFT OF HUMAN HISTORY.
[Tom in London, on the way to a 6:15am CNN interview.]
YOU ARE ASKED, "HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE NEVER HAD A REAL JOB?"
[Tom in Wales, where car plants still spur an otherwise dormant economy.]
YOU FAIL TO "LOOK RIGHT" AND DAMN NEAR GET RUN OVER. [Tom in London.]
WHILE SPEED WALKING, YOU ARE NEARLY RUN OVER BY 50 BEAUTIFUL HORSES FROM THE QUEEN' GUARD, OUT FOR THEIR MORNING CONSTITUTIONAL. [Tom in Hyde Park, London, at 6a.m.]
YOU INADVERTENTLY WALK INTO A BOOK STORE'S CHRISTMAS PARTY AND YOU FIND BRILLIANT A CAPPELLA SINGERS ... AND ABOUT HALF THE WORLD'S FAMOUS AUTHORS, PRESENT, SIGNING THEIR BOOKS ... AND LOOKING EVERY BIT "FAMOUS AUTHORS." [Tom, at Hatchards in London.]
YOU SWOON. YOU FIND A TOTAL DEVOTEE ... AGE 60 ... WHO SWEARS HIS COMPANY HAS GROWN FROM TIDBITS TO $6BILLION, IN HEAVY CONSTRUCTION, FROM LISTENING TO "THE PETERS PRINCIPLES" AND EMPOWERING EMPLOYEES.
[Tom in Cairo, where "empowerment" is a dirty word.]
YOU LEARN THAT THERE IS ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW: THE CAIRO PAPERS INSIST THAT THE EGYPT AIR 990 CRASH WAS A CIA-MOSSAD CONSPIRACY! [I humbly disagree ... but I learn -- Big Time -- from the experience of experiencing how others experience "us".] [Tom in Cairo.]
YOU TRAVEL BY TRAIN ... AND LOVE IT! [London to Cardiff and back.]
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.