The Excellence Dividend: The business world needs Tom Peters more than ever

Tom Peters is one of the most influential business management experts in the world. In a digital economy, where customer experience is as important as a company's products or services, Peters' new book provides us the tools we need to compete and grow, while delighting our employees, customers, partners and communities.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer


Excellence is a universal striving. If not Excellence, what? -- Tom Peters


Tom Peters is my favorite person to follow on Twitter. Tom Peters is the main reason that I fell in love with Twitter. When I joined Twitter in 2011, I had little to no followers. That said, Tom Peters was kind enough to engage with me. He would comment, share and retweet my content. Every time I questioned the value of my time spent on Twitter, I found myself inspired, and frankly surprised, that I had the opportunity to engage with one of the greatest business management and leadership experts in the world. I am certain that there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of us, that were encouraged to volunteer our time on Twitter, hoping to teach and be taught, because of the example that Tom Peters so generously demonstrated on social media -- if you are like me, please take a minute and send a "thank you" tweet to Mr. Peters at @Tom_Peters.

In case you are new to the business management world, here's a very short bio of Tom Peters.

  • Tom Peters is coauthor of In Search of Excellence -- the book that changed the way the world does business, and is often tagged as the best business book ever. It's been said that Tom created the business book industry. In Search of Excellence was the most widely held library book in the United States from 1989 to 2006. It was named the 'Top Three Business Books' of the Century and the greatest business book of all time with more than 5 million copies sold
  • Tom Peters virtually invented the modern thought leadership industry.
  • Tom Peters is the most famous consultant McKinsey has ever produced.
  • The Bloomsbury Press book, Movers and Shakers: The 100 Most Influential Figures in Modern Business said: Peter Drucker has written more and his ideas have withstood a longer test of time, but it is Peters -- as consultant, writer, columnist, seminar lecturer, and stage performer -- whose energy, style, influence, and ideas have shaped new management thinking.
  • Warren Bennis, the leading scholar on the topic of leadership said: If Peter Drucker "invented" management, Tom Peters vivified it.
  • In no small measure, American corporations have become what Peters encouraged them to be. -- The New Yorker
  • We live in a Tom Peters world. -- Fortune Magazine
  • Tom Peters has traveled 40 years, delivering 2,500+ speeches in 50 states and 67 countries to more than 5,000,000 people.
  • Tom Peters has written 18 books with over 10 million copies sold. In addition he has authored 600 syndicated columns, 250 articles and 3,000 blog posts.
  • In November 2017, Tom received the Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Tom's most recent effort is The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Wows and Jobs that Last. Tom's bedrock belief: "Execution is strategy -- it's all about the people and the doing, not the talking and the theory."
  • Tom_Peters has over 157K followers on Twitter and is my highest recommendation follow at @Tom_Peters.

When the guy (Tom Peters), who sold over 10 million copies of his books, and invented the business management book industry, shows up for an interview at our Salesforce office in Boston, holding my book (The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence). I couldn't stop smiling.

Tom Peters' generosity, accessibility and kindness is boundless.

Corey Snow - Harvard University

I can summarize the above set of achievements with the following: Tom Peters is one of the greatest living business management experts in the world. Peters is also one of the most accessible and generous thought leaders in the world. Here's my one of my all-time favorite Twitter moments -- Mr. Peters read my book and commented on Twitter (see below). His endorsement gave me the courage to start blogging -- I have published over 300 articles since my book was published.


Tom Peters review of The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, by Brad Martin and Vala Afshar, 2012

So you can imagine how I felt with Tom Peters agreed to meet me in person to discuss his new book, The Excellence Dividend. I have read the book cover-to-cover and I am now making it a point to share the book with every business leader that I consult with -- the book is a masterpiece. Peters joined Ray Wang, CEO and founder of Constellation Research, and bestselling author of Disrupting Digital Business, on our weekly show called DisrupTV.

Peters joined Ray and I to discuss his new book, The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Wows and Jobs that Last. Before I summarize our incredible conversation with Peters, I want to share the eight key observations from his book.

1. Hard is soft. Soft is hard. Peters notes that his first book, In Search of Excellence, can be summarized in 6 words: Hard is soft. Soft is hard. Peters then summarizes his next 15 books in 6 words: Hard is soft. Soft is hard. In his new book, The Excellence Dividend, Peters notes again: Hard is soft. Soft is hard. "Hard" (the plans, numbers and org charts) is "soft". "Soft" (people, relationship, culture) is "hard". Peters notes that an organization is nothing more and nothing less than people (your employees) serving people (your customers and communities).

2. Soft is hard -- Google gets a big surprise. During our interview, we spoke with Peters about Google's Project Oxygen -- data captured from 1998 to 2013 about Google's eight most important qualities of top employees. STEM was ranked dead last on the list. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills -- being a good coach, communicating and listening well, insights into others, empathy, critical thinking and problem solving, making connections across complex ideas. Peters has been writing about these characteristics for 40 years.

3. Business is personal. Peters echos Richard Branson's sentiments about business: "Business has to give people enriching, rewarding lives ... or it's simply not worth doing." Peters has compiled a large set of CEO thought leaders' points of view on the purpose of business and the importance of happiness and purposeful core values and guiding principles.

4. Excellence is the next 5 minutes. Peters strongly advocates that excellence is not "long-term" aspiration. Instead, excellence is the ultimate short-term strategy.

EXCELLENCE is your next conversation. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is your next meeting. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is shutting up and listening -- really listening. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is your next customer contact. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is saying "Thank you" for something "small." Or not.

EXCELLENCE is the next time you shoulder responsibility and apologize. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is pulling out all the stops at warp speed to respond to a screw-up. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is the flowers you brought to work today. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is lending a hand to an "outsider" who's fallen behind schedule. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is bothering to learn the way folks in finance [or IS or HR] think. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is waaay "over"-preparing for a 3-minute presentation. Or not.

EXCELLENCE is turning "insignificant" tasks into models of ... EXCELLENCE. Or not.

"Excellence is a way of life that sustains us and inspires us day in and day out. There is no "long term." There is only the way we act when we step out into the corridor after a meeting -- or, yes, the quality of your next 4-line email." -- Tom Peters

5. Extreme Humanization. The best way to deal with tech onslaught is tech as support tool. Extreme Humanization of products and services is all about fanaticism about every employee's growth (and your own), and no less than Excellence, ever, especially in "small acts ("the next five minutes").

6. Small >> Big. Peters' compilation of insights from successful business leaders points to the importance of paying attention to the small details in order to deliver an unforgettable experience. The importance of soft skills and attention to the "small stuff" is best captured by Henry Clay: "Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart."

7. Beyond Artificial Intelligence (AI): A winning strategy: Designing a meaningful experience will require human creativity and thoughtfulness. Here's a beautiful example:

"Janet Dugan, a healthcare architect, took inspiration from her recent experience having an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) scan. While she was lying still and waiting, she noticed a small mirror that had been placed below the head support piece. It was angled so that she could see through the barrel to the radiology technician and make eye contact with him. 'What a small thing,' she told me. 'And yet what a difference it made. I felt less alone. I was connected to another person at the very moment I needed support. And even though I'm not claustrophobic, it calmed me some to be able to see out of the barrel ... I [saw] that the technician was friendly and that the nurse went out of her way to make me laugh. ... I firmly believe in the power of design to contribute to the healing process -- that architecture can shape events and transform lives. But that day, in that experience, the thing that really gave me comfort was a tiny mirror about as big as a Band-Aid.'"--Tim Leberecht,The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself

8. The Excellence Dividend -- 25 Rules: Peters begins the 25 rules with reminding us of the "all-important last 95 percent": execution!!! Execution is the job of the business leader. Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics. Every business leader should print these 25 rules, place it in a frame, and hang it on their office walls to see everyday.

Ray Wang and I sat down and talked to Peters about life, leadership lessons for more than 40 minutes. We discussed the importance of gender diversity and work -- Peters is incredibly passionate about companies hiring more women in leadership positions. We talked about the history of Silicon Valley and today's moral imperative. We also talked about the importance of soft skills, practicing the art of listening, how to be a better storyteller, and much more.

Research: CIO gender diversity is good for business

I really do hope that you watch the entire conversation with Peters. In 40 minutes, I felt that I had learned as much as a semester in graduate school. I often randomly open a page in The Excellence Dividend, and without exception, every single time, I find sage advice that is so compelling, I run to Twitter to share. Peters has brilliantly found a way to compile 40 years of insights and experience into 460 pages. I am always impressed and humbled when I have the opportunity to meet really smart people. But what I admire most is generosity, accessibility, empathy, humility, optimism and shared wisdom. Tom Peters was scheduled to meet with Ray and I for one hour. We spent 3 hours talking with him. During this time, Peters greeted dozens of people, signed books, shared stories and listened to everyone with genuine interest. Everyone in the room admired Tom Peters, including yours truly.

I learn from Tom Peters every day. He is my mentor. He has shaped my management core values and guiding principles by being a role model to all of us who aspire to be better people -- at home and at work. The business world needs Tom Peters more than ever. I for one am honored and privileged to be connected with him. So do yourself a favor (you will thank me later) and read 'The Excellence Dividend' and follow Tom on Twitter at @Tom_Peters.

Editorial standards