Annotated master (“the works”) presentation/ Tom Peters’ Re-Imagine excellence!


This exchange it is said to have taken place between a student and de facto IBM founder Thomas Watson. Is the story apocryphal? Who knows. And who cares? Not I. It works for me. (And you.) (I hope.)



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This exchange it is said to have taken place between a student and de facto IBM founder Thomas Watson. Is the story apocryphal? Who knows. And who cares? Not I. It works for me. (And you.) (I hope.)

EXCELLENCE is a PERSONAL choice … NOT an institutional choice!

In fact there are few items in this presentation that are more important than this one. Bottom line: YOUR CHOICE. PERIOD.

  • “[This year’s] graduates are told [by commencement speakers] to pursue happiness and joy. But, of course, when you read a biography of someone you admire, it’s rarely the things that made them happy that compel our admiration. It’s the things they did to court unhappiness—the things they did that were arduous and miserable, which sometimes cost them friends and aroused hatred. It’s excellence, not happiness, that we admire most.” —David Brooks, “It’s Not About You,” op-ed, New York Times, 30 May 2011
  • WHY NOT?
  • “Why in the
  • World did you
  • go to Siberia?”

A half-dozen years ago I went to Novosibirsk, Siberia, to give a seminar. (Novosibirsk, center of Soviet scientific excellence, was now confronting the global economy—and looking for a new direction.) The unusual setting caused me to go back to “first principals” in my thinking about enterprise. I asked myself, for starters … “WHAT’S THE POINT?”

  • Enterprise* (*at its best): An emotional, vital, innovative, joyful, creative, entrepreneurial endeavor that elicits maximum
  • concerted human
  • potential in the
  • wholehearted pursuit of EXCELLENCE in
  • service of others.** **Employees, Customers, Suppliers, Communities, Owners, Temporary partners

Enterprise, as I note … AT ITS BEST. (Obviously not always achieved—or, alas, even aspired to.) On the other hand … if this or something very much like it is not the aim … then what is the point? Think about it. Please. (Photo is me and my interpreter, who turned out to have an economics PhD from the University of Maryland, on stage in Novosibirsk.)

  • 6 Words:
  • But a Mouthful
  • Hard is Soft.
  • Soft is Hard.
  • People.
  • Customers.
  • Values.
  • Some—most?—call these ideas “soft”—where are the numbers and the plans?
  • Surely there is room for the numbers.
  • But they are the real “soft stuff”—malleable and manipulable. (As we saw again and again during the economic crisis.)
  • The truly “hard stuff”—which can’t be faked or exaggerated—are the relationships with, for instance, our customers and our own people.
  • “‘Hard’ is ‘soft.’
  • ‘Soft’ is ‘hard.’”
  • Mantra #1 from In Search of EXCELLENCE.
  • 19 Es!
  • The “19 Es” of EXCELLENCE
  • Enthusiasm! (Be an irresistible force of nature! Be fire! Light fires!)
  • Exuberance! (Vibrate—cause earthquakes!)
  • Execution! (Do it! Now! Get it done! Barriers are baloney! Excuses are
  • for wimps! Accountability is gospel! Adhere to coach Bill Parcells’
  • doctrine: “Blame nobody!! Expect nothing!! Do something!!”)
  • Empowerment! (Respect! Appreciation! Ask until you’re blue in the face,
  • What do you think?” Then: Listen! Liberate! 100.00% innovators!)
  • Edginess! (Perpetually dance at the frontier and a little, or a lot, beyond.)
  • Enraged! (Maintain a permanent state of mortal combat with the
  • status-quo!)
  • Engaged! (Addicted to MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around. In touch.
  • Always.)
  • Electronic! (Partner with the whole wide world 60/60/24/7 via all manner
  • of electronic community building and entanglement. Crowdsourcing
  • wins!)
  • Encompassing! (Relentlessly pursue diversity of every flavor! Diversity
  • per se generates big returns!) (Seeking superb leaders: Women rule!)
  • Emotion! (The alpha! The omega! The essence of leadership! The
  • essence of sales! The essence of design! The essence of life itself!
  • Acknowledge it! Use it!)
  • The “19 Es” of EXCELLENCE
  • Empathy! (Connect! Connect! Connect! Click with others’ reality and
  • aspirations! “Walk in the other person’s shoes”—until the soles
  • have holes!)
  • Ears! (Effective listening in every encounter: Strategic Advantage No. 1!
  • Believe it!)
  • Experience! (Life is theater! It’s always showtime! Make every contact
  • a “Wow” ! Standard: “Insanely Great”/Steve Jobs; “Radically
  • Thrilling”/BMW.)
  • Eliminate! (Keep it simple!! Furiously battle hyper-complexity and
  • gobbledygook!!)
  • Errorprone! (Ready! Fire! Aim! Try a lot of stuff, make a lot of booboos.
  • CELEBRATE the booboos! Try more stuff, make more booboos! He
  • who makes the most mistakes wins! Fail! Forward! Fast!)
  • Evenhanded! (Straight as an arrow! Fair to a fault! Honest as Abe!)
  • Expectations! (Michelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not
  • that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we
  • hit it.”)
  • Eudaimonia! (The essence of Aristotelian philosophy: True happiness is
  • pursuit of the highest of human moral purpose. Be of service!
  • Always!)
  • EXCELLENCE! (The only standard! Never an exception! Start NOW!
  • No excuses!)



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