Tom Peters

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Thomas J. "Tom" Peters (born November 7, 1942) is an American writer on business management practices, best-known for In Search of Excellence co-authored with Robert H. Waterman.


  • Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.
  • I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote Search. There was no carefully designed work plan. There was no theory that I was out to prove. I went out and talked to genuinely smart, remarkably interesting, first-rate people. I had an infinite travel budget that allowed me to fly first class and stay at top-notch hotels and a license from McKinsey to talk to as many cool people as I could all around the United States and the world.
    I went to see Karl Weick, who had totally influenced my life. I had read his work a thousand times, and I'd never met him. I went to Oslo to talk with Einar Thorsrud, who had studied empowerment on oil tankers. I went to the Tavistock Institute in London, where the leading thinkers on organizational development were looking at why people work together effectively in team configurations under certain circumstances.
    Word of the meeting got back to McKinsey USA, and I was invited to give a presentation to the top management of PepsiCo... The time was drawing near for the Pepsi presentation to take place. One morning at about 6, I sat down at my desk overlooking the San Francisco Bay from the 48th floor of the Bank of America Tower, and I closed my eyes. Then I leaned forward, and I wrote down eight things on a pad of paper. Those eight things haven't changed since that moment. They were the eight basic principles of Search.
    • Tom Peters (2001) "Tom Peters's True Confessions" in Fast Company, December 2001 (online, Nov 31, 2001).
  • Bosses: You make your living going to meetings. Hence any meeting that does not bubble and incite enthusiasm is a forever-lost opportunity.
    • Tom Peters on Twitter, 2012.06.03.
  • EXCELLENCE in <140 Characters: Cherish your people, cuddle your customers, wander around, “try it” beats “talk about it,” Excellence or else, tell the truth.
    • - Abu Dhabi, World Strategy Summit, Main Program, November 17, 2015

In Search of Excellence (1982)

Tom Peters & Robert H. Waterman, Jr. (1982) In Search of Excellence.
  • Creating in all employees the awareness that their best efforts are essential and that they will share in the rewards of the company's success.
    • p. i.
  • Without exception, the dominance and coherence of culture proved to be an essential quality of the excellent companies.
    • p. 75.
  • Transforming leadership, [is defined as] leadership that builds on man's need for meaning, leadership that creates institutional purpose … he is the value-shaper, the exemplar, the maker of meanings … he is the true artist, the true pathfinder.
    • p. 82 as cited in: Amir Levy, Uri Merry (1986) Organizational Transformation: Approaches Strategies, and Theories. p. 52.
  • Most of their real innovation comes from the market
    • p. 159.
  • What gets measured gets done.
    • Attributed to organization theorist Mason Haire. p. 268.
  • Every excellent company we studied is clear on what it stands for, and takes the process of value shaping seriously. In fact, we wonder whether it is possible to be an excellent company without clarity on values and without having the right sorts of values.
    • p. 280.

The Project 50 (Re-Inventing Work Series) (1999)

  • Life is too short for non-WOW projects.
    • p. 97.
  • Lists simplify, clarify, edify.
    • p. 164.

The Little Big Things: 163 Ways To Pursue Excellence (2010)

  • If not excellence, what? If not excellence now, when?
    • p. 9.
  • The vitality of our network will determine our professional fate.
    • p. 50.
  • Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.
    • p. 53.

The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last (2018)

  • Service is the highest human calling.
    • pg. 41

Tom Peters Daily / Weekly Quote

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  • Do not even flippantly badmouth anybody this week. Button it up.
    • November 2, 2010.
  • The Big Four: Out-read 'em. Out-study 'em. Out-present 'em. Out-listen 'em.
    • November 4, 2010.
  • As project chief you are creating a narrative, a story, a good yarn. If you look at the process-journey that way, you and your gang will … dramatically up the odds of a WOW outcome!
    • November 5, 2010.
  • The Peters Principles: Enthusiasm. Emotion. Excellence. Energy. Excitement. Service. Growth. Creativity. Imagination. Vitality. Joy. Surprise. Independence. Spirit. Community. Limitless human potential. Diversity. Profit. Innovation. Design. Quality. Entrepreneurialism. Wow.
    • November 21, 2011.
  • What is my personal strategy for the next 10 hours? Who can I talk with or what can I volunteer for to learn something new?
    • February 4, 2013.
  • Musing on the phrase ‘waste of time.’ So much more complex than it appears. Many ‘wastes of time’—small talk, daydreaming—are imperatives.”
    • October 7, 2013.
  • If you want to achieve Excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less than Excellent work. The first 99.9% of getting from here to there is the determination to do it and not to compromise, no matter what set of road blocks those around you erect.
    • November 11, 2013.
  • Have fun/Make it fun. … All human endeavor is about emotion. Zest, joy, pride—and fun—are near the heart of any successful enterprise.
    • December 23, 2013.
  • Make the collective, professional pursuit of listening skills per se a keystone of corporate 'culture'.
    • January 12, 2015.
  • The most important personal ‘core competence’ by far is a rich set of relationships.
    • March 16, 2015.
  • The well-served an appreciating asset. Every small act on her or his behalf ups the odds of repeat business, add-on business, and priceless word-of-mouth referral.
    • January 4, 2016
  • Training in listening, in statistical techniques and problem cause-and-effect analysis, in group problem solving, in sophisticated financial analysis (for everyone)—and then constant retraining, for upgrading and learning new skills—simply must become the norm, for realtor, banker, or high-tech wizard.
    • March 14, 2016
  • The ... moral responsibility ... of every leader is staggering—an opportunity to be of service to (literally) civilization. Or not.
    • May 2, 2016
  • Read deep! Read often! Out-READ the 'Competition'!!!
    • 20 June 2016
  • Ask! Interviewing/information extraction is an (exceptionally important) ‘art’ that must be mastered!
    • 06 February 2017
  • Success is about executing what you are doing today with unquestionable, breathtaking excellence.
    • 13 February 2017
  • A ‘Client’ is ...
  • a partner
  • someone with whom I have an intimate relationship
  • in it with me for the long haul
  • someone with whom I co-invent the future
    • 08 May 2017
  • No such thing as a 'non-leader.' Every day offers every one of us scads of leadership opportunities.
    • 16 October 2017
  • R&D/good times and bad times. R&D may have to take its lumps in tough times ... But beware of cutting too much muscle.
    • 08 January 2018
  • Design, writ large, is increasingly the route to product or service differentiation.
    • 15 January 2018
  • Passionate servant leaders, determined to create a legacy of earthshaking transformation in their domain create/must necessarily create organizations which are ... no less than Cathedrals in which the full and awesome power of the Imagination and Spirit and native Entrepreneurial flair of diverse individuals is unleashed ... In passionate pursuit of jointly perceived soaring purpose and personal and community and client service Excellence.
    • 24 December 2018
  • Punctuality at meetings influences culture of punctuality, i.e., promise-keeping in general, on-time deliveries, etc.
    • 04 February 2019
  • Organizations exist only to serve. Leaders exist only to serve.
    • 20 May 2019
  • In the private or public sector, in big business or small, we observe that there are only two ways to create and sustain superior performance over the long haul. First, take exceptional care of your customers ... via superior service and superior quality. Second, constantly innovate. That’s it.
    • 28 October 2019
  • ‘Soft’ skills will be 10X more important in a virtual/work-at-home world. Team dynamics, individual growth, team creativity will dominate effectiveness.”
    • 06 April 2020
  • Most important things take lots of time. Peerless quality. Relationship building. Developing people. Superb design. EXCELLENCE.
    • 28 September 2020
  • An organization, no matter how ‘technologically transformed,’ is at the end of the day no more/no less than: PEOPLE SERVING PEOPLE. (And as leader, your job is: SERVE THE PEOPLE WHO SERVE THE PEOPLE.) (One last thing: The people we serve are our Customers AND our Communities.)
    • 26 October 2020
  • Design that matters infuses HR and Purchasing and Finance as much as product development.
    • 23 November 2020
  • Hire for all jobs based on empathy. Employ people who care about people; everything else can be trained.
    • 01 March 2021
  • Everybody loves being recognized, in any way, large or small. ... Appreciation, applause, approval, respect—we all love it!
    • 17 May 2021
  • Professional success requires ... drive, initiative, commitment, involvement, and—above all—enthusiasm.
    • 21 June 2021
  • Brains are in; heavy lifting is out. That's the essential nature of the new knowledge-based economy. Therefore, the development of knowledge is close to job No. 1 for corporations.
    • 08 November 2021
  • Tennis or finance or engineering or bartending … this ‘simple’ lesson bears repeating. … Study! Study! Study!
    • 18 April 2022
  • Machines can automate a lot of things, but design is something humans do best.
    • 02 May 2022
  • A blizzard of small steps and memorable touches are more important than ‘breakthrough’ attempts. So, take those constant small steps forward into the unknown.
    • 23 January 2023
  • In the age of advancing AI, humans’ advantage is diversity—twists and turns and acts of customer love and amazement that the algorithms can’t match!
    • 06 March 2023
  • Superb relationships are at the heart of success. Kindness is the core of superb relationships.
    • 13 March 2023
  • People first!
    • 10 April 2023

Found Elsewhere

  • A career is a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, gain you new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set and constantly reinvent you as a brand.
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