The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness

Overview

In 1982, business guru Tom Peters co-authored In Search of Excellence, one of the most influential business guides of all time. More recently, through 400 seminars in 47 states and 22 countries, Peters reexamined, refined and reinvented his views on innovation--the #1 survival strategy, he asserts, for businesses of the next millennium.

The Circle of Innovation brings these seminars--and Peters' contagious passion--to the reader in a landmark book. Through bold graphics, ...

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The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness

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Overview

In 1982, business guru Tom Peters co-authored In Search of Excellence, one of the most influential business guides of all time. More recently, through 400 seminars in 47 states and 22 countries, Peters reexamined, refined and reinvented his views on innovation--the #1 survival strategy, he asserts, for businesses of the next millennium.

The Circle of Innovation brings these seminars--and Peters' contagious passion--to the reader in a landmark book. Through bold graphics, astounding facts and figures, and quotes whose sources range from Émile Zola to Steve Jobs, Peters blows the lid off accepted management styles. Here is a book that will open your eyes to new ways of envisioning the challenges of today's world. Here, too, is a practical guide that will teach you how to:

- reverse the rising tide of product and service "commoditization" and foster uniqueness
- capitalize on the skyrocketing purchasing power of women
- convert sluggish staff into vital centers of intellectual capital accumulation
- build systems of elegance and beauty
- liberate your creativity and individual leadership style

Whether you manage a six-person department or a 60,000-body behemoth, The Circle of Innovation  empowers you to transform your organization, your career, yourself. Inspiring, timely, this blueprint for success is pure Peters--a handbook as energetic as it is profound.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A]...breakthrough for the genre....Peters is not only the father of the postmodern corporation...he may well have produced the first piece of postmodern management literature."—Los Angeles Times

"No matter where you are in your career, this book is a must read.  The younger your thinking the more you'll get out of it."  —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A manual for businesses that want to survive and thrive in a world continually undergoing change."  —St. Petersburg Times

"Tom Peters has done it again."—J.W. Marriot, Jr., CEO, Marriot International, Inc.

"[Peters] yields potent insights...his keen attention to the human element in organizational growth and change shines through...No cutting-edge manager can afford to ignore it."—Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
Peters The Pursuit of Wow! LJ 2/15/95 advances here a barrage of ideas on what it takes to succeed in an ever-changing marketplace. His book, derived from 60 or so iterations of his seminars, has a frenetic, almost attention-deficit quality, taking a decidedly McLuhan-like approach and, like McLuhan, proving prophetic and poignant even if, in the final analysis, it is wrong. A shrewd observer, Peters offers trenchant observations. For example, he gloms onto the interesting idea of great design as the corporate advantage over quality and price. This book will have wide appeal, and more than one organization will attempt to experiment with some of the author's theses. Recommended for all libraries.Steven Silkunas, SEPTA/FRONTIER, Lansdale, Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679757658
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/1999
  • Pages: 518
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.91 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Peters is the co-author of In Search of Excellence (with Robert H. Waterman, Jr.), and A Passion for Excellence (with Nancy Austin), and the author of Thriving on Chaos, Liberation Management, The Tom Peters Seminar, and The Pursuit of Wow!. He is the founder of the Tom Peters Group in Palo Alto, California, and lives mostly on American Airlines, or with his family on a farm in Vermont or an island off the Massachusetts coast. Thanks to the information technology revolution he can be reached at tompeters@businessedge.net

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

1 B-I-G Idea (x15)

The Circle of Innovation is the overarching idea which animates this book. Here's a quick preview of the 15 stops along the way . . .

DISTANCE IS DEAD. We're all next-door neighbors. Incrementalism is innovation's worst enemy. Mid-to long-term: Business is about augmenting the top line...not cost minimization.

DESTRUCTION IS COOL! CDO...Chief Destruction Officer. Easier to KILL an organization--and repot it--than change it substantially. Learn to swallow it: DESTRUCTION IS JOB NO. 1 (before the competition does it to you).

YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT AN ERASER. Forgetting--not learning--is the highest art. Think: ORGANIZED forgetting. STRATEGIC forgetfulness. How? Cherish WASTE...SILLINESS...FAILURE. i.e.: Ready. FIRE! Aim.

WE ARE ALL MICHELANGELOS. Convert every "jobholder" into a BUSINESS-PERSON. Convert every job into a BUSINESS. "Business" is a very different--and more encompassing--word than "empowerment." Keys: trust/respect/Michelangelos of Housekeeping/Michelangelos of Telemarketing. Boss as . . . RELENTLESS ARCHITECT OF THE POSSIBILITIES OF HUMAN BEINGS.

WELCOME TO THE WHITE-COLLAR REVOLUTION. IF YOU CAN'T SAY (SPECIFICALLY) WHY YOU MAKE YOUR COMPANY A BETTER PLACE...YOU'RE OUT! As of Now: ME, INC!/TAKE IMMEDIATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR CHANGE!/YOU (ME) ARE A BRAND. (Perform a PERSONAL BRAND EQUITY EVALUATION...NOW!) There are no guarantees...and that can be liberating (i.e., stomp out indentured servitude to BigCorp).

ALL VALUE COMES FROM THE PROFESSIONAL SERVICES. Make staff units The Vital Centers of Intellectual Capital Accumulation...rather than the prime sources of bureaucratic drag. Tool: Turn Purchasing (HR, IS, Finance) into PURCHASING, INC....a full-fledged professional service firm . . . devoted to TRANSFORMATIONAL projects/awesome CLIENT service/WOW!

THE INTERMEDIARY IS DOOMED. (Big) organizations without employees. EVERY task your organization performs is performed BETTER (higher quality, faster, more imaginatively) by some hyper-fast specialist (somewhere) who lives/eats/sleeps/breathes the narrow task. FLAT is too modest a term. (By far.) We are gutting the "center"of vertical enterprises. THE INTERMEDIARY IS DYING/DEAD! Hail the disintermediated/network "organization"...transparent to its customers (and all members of the value-creation chain).

THE SYSTEM IS THE SOLUTION. (1) Systems are the glue..in ephemeral/network "orgs." (2) Systems--great systems--are not about "nuts and bolts." They are/can be...BEAUTIFUL. Systems Engineering Dept.? NO! Dept. of Beauty?? YES!! It's W-A-Y beyond reengineering.

CREATE WAVES OF LUST. (Almost) everything works. Quality per se is not the advantage it once (recently) was. So: Just shout "NO!" to . . . commoditization (of anything)/me-too/look-alikes. Embrace: WOW!!!/lusted-after products and services! Ultimate sin: WHEN WE DO IT "RIGHT," IT'S STILL PRETTY ORDINARY.

TOMMY HILFIGER KNOWS. In a (very) crowded marketplace...branding is (far) more important than ever before. It is...THE AGE OF THE BRAND! (1) Anything can be branded (e.g., chicken, milk). (2) Branding is as much for the very wee outfit as for Levi's or Nike or Starbucks or Intel (Inside).

BECOME A CONNOISSEUR OF TALENT. RECRUIT DIVERSITY! HIRE CRAZIES! Make REVOLUTIONARY RENEWAL everyone's (LITERAL) Job No. 1. We are...ALL...RDAs... Rapidly Depreciating Assets. Therefore: (Continuing) Vitality = (Continuing) Commitment to (Bold/Formal) Renewal Programs...by...EVERYONE.

IT'S A WOMAN'S WORLD. Women purchase/are purchasing agents for well over half the U.S. GDP (commercial and consumer goods). Almost no BigCo. "gets it"--financial services, healthcare, autos, business services, etc., etc. I.e., "gets" catering-to-women-as-premier-purchasers. WHY?? It takes TOTAL TRANSFORMATION--not a "woman's initiative"--to take advantage of this bizarrely neglected COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY NO. 1.

LITTLE THINGS ARE THE ONLY THINGS. As markets get more and more (and more) crowded . . . DESIGN is often the best "tool"--in services and manufacturing--for sustainable differentiation. Sad fact: Most companies do anything but OBSESS (e.g., Braun-like, Sony-like) on design. Personal design sensitization is Step No. 1: Home in on (OPEN YOUR EYES TO) the pervasive role that design plays in damn near everything--signage, forms, typeface, color (a big deal), etc., etc.

LOVE ALL, SERVE ALL. Even today (WHY? WHY?? WHY???) a ridiculously small number of sizable firms seek a sustainable edge through incredible service--Disney- or Caterpillar-style. To get from (tawdry) here to (Olympian) there takes a wholesale commitment to nothing less than reconceiving the way business is done in your market/niche.

WE'RE HERE TO LIVE LIFE OUT LOUD. Transformational leaders will eschew "hands off." They will be bizarrely focused...tell the truth...and live life on the LUNATIC FRINGE. I.e., revolutionary times call for revolutionary zeal/leaders.

15 IDEAS = 1 IDEA = INNOVATION/TOP-LINE OBSESSION/WOW!!

*
• *
The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, You Can't Live Without An Eraser

John Mickelthwaite, management editor for The Economist, recently produced a masterful summary of Silicon Valley's success secrets. (It's the best I've seen in 30 years.) To wit:

Failure tolerated. "Bankruptcy" in The Valley, Mickelthwaite writes, "is treated like a dueling scar in a Prussian officer's mess." It's no sin. It's almost a requisite.

As a three-decade denizen of The Valley, I think it's an accurate statement...and maybe the most important one that Mickelthwaite makes. Another Valley commentator, Michael Malone, offers his own version of this: "Failure is Silicon Valley's No. 1 strength." Amen!

Treachery tolerated. Jumping from company to company...swapping secrets over brews or the latest-release Chardonnay...or across the Nautilus machines...The Valley is not the home to traditional loyalty. The ideas flow...and flow. Such Brownian motion is one of its success keys.

Risk seeking. One Valley venture capitalist lays out his expectations for any set of 20 investments: Four will go bankrupt, six will lose money, six will do okay, three will do well...and one will hit the jackpot. That is, there's hardly an expectation of a 1.000 batting average. Not even close!

Reinvest. The enormous positive cash flow generated in The Valley is...by and large...returned in reinvestments in new enterprises.

Enthusiasm for change. "Only the paranoid survive" is the fabled tradition, associated with those words by Intel's legendary chairman Andy Grove. Cannibalization is key...remember the word according to Hewlett-Packard chairman Lew Platt. "Obsolete ourselves or the competition will"--that's the way Mickelthwaite puts it.

Promotion on merit. There is substantial "openness to immigrants and to women," Mickelthwaite writes at one point. Understatement! If the immigrants split, the Valley would have to hang up a "Closed for Business" sign. In general, things are moving so fast that politics counts for little...performance counts for all. It's no small thing!!

Obsession with the product. The Valley, Mickelthwaite says, is hooked on "the cool idea." (That is, the latest cool idea.) The No. 1 characteristic of long-term innovators, according to a major study, is that they are "in love with their product." The "it" is it...in The Valley.

Collaboration. Generations are months. Sometimes weeks (at least in Internet World). The answer: Don't reinvent the wheel. Add your new (hopefully big) twist and quickly blend with tested bits borrowed from anyone and everyone.

Variety. The Valley consists of gazillions of fly-by-night outfits, here today ...gone later today. And also a few Hewlett-Packards and Intels. It's the mix of the high-stature, in-it-for-the-long-haul firms and the overnight stars (most of whom become overnight flops) that, again, feeds that...ALL-IMPORTANT BROWNIAN MOTION.

Anybody can play. It's the old-fashioned American dream brought to life. "I can be rich"--Mickelthwaite says that each and every Valley denizen believes that. Perhaps an exaggeration. But not much of one.

I think this is a superb list. And I believe these 10 traits go a long way toward explaining The Valley's unique success. More important to this discussion: I believe this list can be translated--exactly--to the individual enterprise. Think about it! How does your company--or department--score on each of these 10 traits??

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Table of Contents


Introduction ..... xii
Distance is Dead. ..... 1
Destruction is Cool! ..... 35
You Can't Live Without an Eraser ..... 75
We are all Michelangelos. ..... 123
Welcome to the White-Collar Revolution. ..... 157
All Value Comes from the Professional Services. ..... 199
The Intermediary is Doomed. ..... 229
The System is the Solution. ..... 271
Create Waves of Lust. ..... 295
Tommy Hilfiger Knows. ..... 333
Become a Connoisseur of Talent. ..... 353
It's a Woman's World. ..... 395
Little Things are the Only Things. ..... 427
Love All, Serve All. ..... 453
We're Here to Live Life Out Loud. ..... 477
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Interviews & Essays

Thank you for visiting the barnesandnoble.com Live Events Auditorium. This evening we are hosting management guru Tom Peters, who will discuss his latest book, THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION.



Moderator: Welcome to barnesandnoble.com, Tom Peters. We are pleased you could join us online to discuss THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION. Are you enjoying your weekend?

Tom Peters: I just spent a lovely weekend in Manhattan, highlighted by the musical "1776," and now I am in Orlando getting ready for a speech to Lawson Software on Monday morning.


Louise from Arizona: I'm sure this question is very broad, but please indulge me: How does THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION differ from IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE? What would you say the three major differences are? And how about the three major similarities? Thank you, Mr. Peters.

Tom Peters: Difference number one: We are having this conversation at barnesandnoble.com. To put it mildly, that would not have happened in 1982. Number two: In 1982 I believed in "excellence for the ages." Today I believe that even the best of us are scrambling and scrapping to keep a toehold on the hill called survival. In terms of sameness, the first principle of IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE was "A Bias for Action." That holds more truth today than yesterday by far.


Carter Bowman from Philadelphia: Dear Tom Peters: My friend recently described you as the Dennis Rodman of business authors, based on the striking internal design of THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION. Personally, I love the various graphics and fonts. What was the thinking behind this book's design? Did you decide to break the mold of the business book forever?

Tom Peters: Tragically, my hair is the same color as it was several months ago. But to your point, we decided that this book should reflect the vibrant times of which it is a part. Therefore the design is indeed intended to be as energetic as the message. Lots of "straight" reviewers have had the devil's own time with the design. To which I say, "Great!"


Parker from Austin, TX: What sort of advice is in THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION for the first-time manager in a large corporation?

Tom Peters: That there is no difference between you and the general manager of an NBA franchise. That is, you are as good as the quirky talent that works for you. Alas, not many supervisors see themselves as equivalent to a professional sports franchise general manager.


Andrew Myers from Glen Ridge, NJ: The big news in the publishing industry of late has been the acquisition of Random House by Bertelsmann who owns the publisher BDD. What general advice would you give the managers, vice presidents, and corporate leaders over there in order to make this combination of companies successful? Does this bode well for the publishing industry in general?

Tom Peters: I am published by Random House, now son of Bertelsmann. I am not a happy camper. On the other hand, the true answer to your question is that the likes of Barnes & Noble are not publishing a higher share of the giant publishers than in the past. To the contrary, there have, in fact, never been greater opportunities for small focused, specialized, excellent publishers and, therefore, writers. As to managers at Random House, for better or for worse, you must understand that making money on what you publish is not unmitigated evil.


Affendi Said from RPI: How do you measure the success of process innovation?

Tom Peters: In the book THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION, I have a chapter called "The System Is the Solution." I talk about what I call beautiful systems -- that is, systems that are more than "buttoned-down." For example: Federal Express, Southwest Airlines, and USAA, the insurance company. So "great process improvement" to me means processes that are "beautiful"/"graceful". These are not the terms we normally associate with systems. Our loss.


Duke from Denver: What exactly is a circle of innovation? Why the image of the circle? Could you define "innovation"?

Tom Peters: "Innovation" means doing neater stuff than the other guy. You know it when you see it as well as I do. In the local restaurant. Or at the computer company. The circle of innovation is about 15 ideas that can be taken independently or linked up to produce an innovative culture.


A Fan from Research Triangle, NC: One of your basic tenets in THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION is hiring "crazies." Why? I was always taught to hire someone who would fit in well with the company, not someone who rocks the boat.

Tom Peters: Answer: It's 1998, stupid and I don't mean you. In the software world, I remember an old pal at IBM. He said that business had been great before the computer-science degree arrived. Prior to that degree, he had hired fabulous historians, anthropologists, scientists, etc. Now he was hiring from MIT, Stanford, Berkeley. And they had all been trained by the same people. My point: If you want "neat stuff" you've got to look at offbeat sources of talent. It's as simple as that and as inescapable as that.


Samer from Rochester, NY: As a manager, I've come to realize that most employees are incredibly resistant to change. Even a change in something as simple as ordering supplies meets with a round of complaints. I'm curious about the idea you bring up in THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION regarding destruction versus change. How would a manager like me implement this? Thanks.

Tom Peters: I think my answer is: They don't trust you. I don't mean that personally, obviously. What I do mean is that "they" are, rightfully, skeptical. You declare yourself to be all in favor of empowerment. They think, "Oh no. He's been to a Tom Peters seminar." I think that people can be brought along to support significant change. But they must believe that you are on their side and that all of you are in this together. That is the magic of Franklin Roosevelt, bringing Americans reluctantly into World War II, and the magic of you bringing your seven or 77 people into line to support, vigorously, change.


Brian Arleth from Dayton, OH: How does one regain his Joe Key Attitude if it's been dormant for decades?

Tom Peters: I think we all have a lot of "Joe Key" in us. The good news is that the human spirit is hard to snuff out. The issue is: Do you have the nerve to stick your neck out, at least a few millimeters tomorrow Monday! morning.


Alan Smith from Fresno: What's the difference between a job and a "project." How should managers encourage this thinking in its employees?

Tom Peters: I worked for seven years at McKinsey & Co. I worked on a series of projects. Each one lasted three to six months. Each one had "deliverables." That is, stuff that we had promised to our client. A project, to me, is something that has an end and some stuff that you promise to get done, come hell and high water. A job, as we have routinely defined it for the last several decades, is simply about processing the stuff that arrives at your "In" basket in the course of a day. Whether that stuff adds up to anything of demonstrable value or not is a matter of chance.


Dieter from Milwaukee, WI: Could you please give me some examples of companies that have successfully encouraged the "crazies." How do you do so, if your company is incredibly conservative and casts a wary eye on these so-called crazies. How would you define a "crazy" anyway?

Tom Peters: A crazy is someone who looks a little bit different, who dresses a little bit different, who talks a little bit different and is not ashamed of it. An earlier participant used the image of Dennis Rodman. In my seminars I ask, "Do you have a Dennis Rodman in your accounting department?" There is a lot about Dennis that is unattractive. But he was a "freak" who took the amazing Chicago Bulls to unparalleled heights. Looking and assimilating such offbeat talent is not easy but is clearly a requisite to producing offbeat products and services. Selling Dennis Rodmans to conservative managements is not easy, I would be the first to admit. On the other hand: What's the alternative? We have seen almost all the "great" companies eclipsed by upstarts such as Wal-Mart and Dell Computer. As I say in my book, the message is: Innovate or die.


Tamara from Buffalo, NY: One of your big ideas in THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION is that great service is the greatest innovation. Isn't that idea as old as the hills, or do companies not understand exactly what great service means?

Tom Peters: The answer is: The idea is as old as the hills. And amazingly, few get it! When you see a Fed-Ex or a Nordstrom perform, what you are mostly made aware of is the lack of service that you receive on the average day from the average company. I admit, I am befuddled by all of this. We should realize the billions of dollars of value that Disney, for example, creates thanks to matchless service. But very few do. If you can figure out the puzzle, let me know. I've been trying for 20 years at least, and I can't figure out why they don't get it.


Daniel from Minneapolis: You have been credited with coming up with the term "corporate culture." Would you mind describing what corporate culture is?

Tom Peters: I think it's unfair to give me and my IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE coauthor Bob Waterman that credit. A year before IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE, my friend Alan Kennedy and Terry Deal wrote a book called CORPORATE CULTURE. What all of us were trying to say was that there is a huge difference between the formal organization chart and the informal way that things really get done in organizations. I recently came across a wonderful quote from a senior executive at Sun Microsystems. He said that there is no organization chart at Sun. The real organization is the email traffic. The idea that there is a "soft" way of doing business -- call it corporate culture -- is an important idea that all too many still ignore.


Arlo from Oakland, CA: I love THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION, especially for the amount of attention you pay to Internet businesses. However, I was disappointed in your area on design because no online companies or web sites were mentioned. For the record here, what web sites or online companies exemplify the best in terms of design, and why would you choose them?

Tom Peters: I have been criticized by many -- to my surprise -- for having an AOL email address. Fact is: I am not ashamed. Fortune magazine just ran a cover story on America Online's CEO, Steve Case. One thing the writer said really struck home to me: "Steve Case designed a site for 'the rest of us.'" Years ago, CBS topped NBC. NBC's boss, General Sarnoff, was the best technologist. But CBS boss Bill Paley had a much better feel for the "common man." Likewise, Steve Case and his now 10,000 pals at AOL are not as sophisticated as some others, but they have given us genuine, no-baloney user friendliness. Therefore it is the AOL standard that I apply to any web site.


Terrence from Baton Rouge, LA: Our company has spent the past 15 years concentrating on quality. However, it recently has come to management's attention that there is a company-wide resistance to taking responsibility and thinking beyond one's department. It's almost become an epidemic. Any suggestions on how to handle that specific problem?

Tom Peters: Yes! Go back to basics. The war is never won. If you are meeting resistance to change, then the obvious question is why. Obviously I cannot answer that. Only you can answer it. Which means go back to first principle. Go "down" to the front line. Talk to the people there. Ask them -- openly -- about their skepticism. Make it clear that their skepticism is an unimpeachable barrier to your success. Beg them to talk straight to you. This is a game which is never won. We have to continually work to keep open lines of communication in any organization of any size.


Nadean from Chattanooga, TN: No question here, Tom, just a compliment. I work for TVA and had the pleasure of attending "The Power of WOW" in Knoxville about three years ago. Incredible! Keep up the good work.

Tom Peters: Bless you!


Jessica from Decatur, GA: You love CEO Arthur Marinez of Sears. Why? What's your relationship with him like? Is he aware of all the attention you pay to him?

Tom Peters: I have no relationship with him at all. I have always worked -- as perverse as it may seem -- to make sure that I have no personal or remunerative relationship with any of the people I tout in my books. I am simply impressed that after many false starts, Sears has apparently crafted a major turnaround -- based on their embrace of the women who buy every darn thing that is sold in their stores, including wrenches and tires.


Ginger from La Jolla, CA: You have some amazing quotes in THE CIRCLE OF INNOVATION, ranging from Charles Handy to Émile Zola. You must read a lot. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Tom Peters: I have been asked, often, as you might suspect, what my secret to success is. My answer: my 89-year-old mom. She made me a reader at age four. And I haven't slowed down at all, 51 years later. I am going to use your question as an opportunity to offer some general advice: As I left New York this morning to fly to Orlando, I stopped in a magazine shop. I bought -- literally -- 11 magazine, three or four of which I had never read before. I am a junk reader. That is, I use a three-hour trip to Orlando as an opportunity to read lots of stuff about lots of stuff about which I know damn little. That is an awful lot of my secret of success. My suggestion to you, online not withstanding, is to go into a Barnes & Noble bookstore and they haven't put me up to this, wander through three or four sections with which you are not familiar. Pick out three or four titles just because they turn you on. And start reading.


Mr. White from Evanston, IL: Why do you think women are better managers than men?

Tom Peters: Because the evidence says so. And after all, I'm a guy. More thoughtfully: I think that women, by and large, are more thoughtful. They listen better. There are great men as managers. No doubt of it. But on average, women are more empathetic. Empathy -- thoughtfulness, listening, paying attention -- is, face it, an attribute that is better developed in women than in men.


Jeff from Phoenix: When will your next book come out? Please give us an idea what it will be about.

Tom Peters: My next book will arrive whenever it is ready to arrive. My publisher keeps asking me the same question. It may be the age of speed-is-life, but my view is that books arrive only when the author has something to say, not when the publisher wants the author to have something to say.


Marc Olsen from Pelham, NY: What is "decentralization real"? Why do you make that parenthetical distinction?

Tom Peters: There are a lot of companies that are decentralized -- on paper. But they hire the same kinds of people for every job, in every department. I am not politically correct. But if you are serving a market that is primarily women, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, well, then, the marketing department and the research department and the accounting department ought to reflect the rainbow you are trying to serve. That is, most decentralized companies are not, in fact, decentralized at all. It is a big -- and bad -- joke.


George from Silicon Alley: What advice would you give to an online company very similar to this one who wants to be number one in its specialty? What are some of the biggest mistakes online ventures are making? What are the biggest success stories? Thanks for taking my question, Mr. Peters.

Tom Peters: I am working with a number of companies that are trying to use the Web in imaginative fashions. The answer is clear to me: Look at America Online even if it makes your techie gene barf. The magic of online is one word and one word only: "community." Online works when lots of "friends" become supportive of one another look no farther than the Motley Fool to understand this. I think the potential of the Web is, literally, infinite. And the magic is to understand that the Web is a genuinely newfangled way of allowing encouraging! community members to visit with community members.


Bill from Waltham, MA: In an organization that is disembodied through outsourcing and employees who work from home, is corporate culture sacrificed?

Tom Peters: No. Corporate culture has to be reinvented. The old definition of corporate culture was a bunch of guys literally! who talked football scores on Monday mornings. The new culture is a bunch of people who share aspirations with one another but who may live in different states, if not different continents. Culture takes on an entirely new meaning. And -- though I am not a Pollyanna -- I believe that that the new meaning of culture can in fact be much richer than the old read: old boy definition of culture, which dominated most corporations.


Chris from Boston: I've just been given permission to hire two new people in my four-person department. What should I look for -- in general -- when reviewing résumés or interviewing people?

Tom Peters: Chris, you are probably a great guy. Therefore, and I say this with complete respect, look for a non-Chris. That is, think about what a wild and woolly and wonderful team of four people, doing neat stuff, might be at its best. Settle for not less than some genuinely interesting people who will constitute a group of nifty folks, who will produce, in turn, a great "high" for you over the course of the next 24 months.


Veep from New York City: I'm uncomfortable with outsourcing. I worry that outside companies won't deliver or don't recognize my company's goals. When is it better to outsource? When is it better to keep projects within a company?

Tom Peters: There are no simple answers. If you outsource -- and I do in one of my companies -- then you have to invest a phenomenal amount of time in becoming comfortable with outsourcers, as partners and family members. Outsourcing to "the lowest bidder" is usually just plain stupid. I am a fan of outsourcing, as long as you take the relationship part of outsourcing deadly seriously. Key words: deadly seriously.


Beth from Seattle: What's your take on the current bookselling war that is taking place on the Internet?

Tom Peters: I am a believer in the Internet. The hype is out of control. The reality is even more out of control. I am an unabashed fan of wandering though bookstores. Physically. Screw virtual. Whoops: Truth is, I spend a lot of time -- to my own amazement -- buying online from the likes of barnesandnoble.com and Amazon. I am here tonight courtesy of barnesandnoble.com. But I am not touting anyone or touting online. The fact is, no baloney: We are almost all heading online very, very fast. The issue is not who is best in 1998. The issue is, Are we ready to deal with the new online world which is being born around us, literally at the speed of light?


Moderator from barnesandnoble.com: Thank you for taking the time to answer all of our questions this evening, Mr. Peters. Do you have any final comments for our online audience?

Tom Peters: This is fun. It is -- as I said in my answer to the last question -- a whole new world which is being born. The hell with the skeptics. Despite my advanced age of 55, I am thrilled out of my wits to be a part of it. This is really cool.


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