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Best-Kept Secrets & Bottom-Line Design

by Tom Peters  |  
May 1, 2006

Great article in the April issue of Business 2.0, titled "Best-kept Secrets of the World's Best Companies"....

Normally I dislike such stuff, but I think the odds in this case of finding something you can use are remarkably high.
There are 25 ideas discussed. Among them: Toro's "Contra Team" that formally rebuts potential merger candidates; it in one instance led Toro to reject a hot $10 million acquisition candidate that was in fact a dud. Bloomberg's amazing offices. Corning's approach to R&D, utilizing outsiders. Southwest's hiring process ("The Job Audition"). W.L. Gore's peer-to-peer, almost hierarchy-free organizational processes–I was a pal of the late Bill Gore, and started writing about the company in A Passion for Excellence in 1985; but the approach is as fresh and provocative as ever; alas, the fact that it's still considered novel suggests how slow we are to adopt truly radical organizational reform. Urban Oufitters' support for partying on the company's nickel–that is, seeking out hot trends that can be translated into product. Etc.
Good stuff.
The same issue of B2.0 offers "Bottom Line Design Awards." There is some great stuff, but my favorite (because it's so unexpected) is Target's "ClearRX Bottle"–a wonderfully clear and attractive and user-friendly pill package (no small deal, given that studies show that 60% of prescriptions are "taken improperly").
That brings to mind a wonderful and compelling book, Thomas Hine's The Total Package. E.g.: "Packages are about containing and labeling and informing and celebrating. They are about power and flattery and trying to win people's trust. They are about beauty and craftsmanship and comfort. They are about color, protection, survival."
Go back to Bloomberg: Sure it's an odd couple, but Space Design and Packaging are two of the most under-utilized, powerful tools for organization change and branding success respectively.
Design! Damn it!
Previously published on Tom Peters' Web site. See for more.

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Fortune called Tom Peters the Ur-guru of management, and compares him to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and H.L. Mencken. The Economist tagged him the Uber-guru; and BusinessWeek's take on his "unconventional views" led them to label him "business's best friend and worst nightmare." In 2004 the Bloomsbury Press book Movers and Shakers reviewed the contributions of 125 business and management thinkers and practitioners, from Machiavelli and JP Morgan to Tom and Jack Welch. Tom's summary entry:

"Tom Peters has probably done more than anyone else to shift the debate on management from the confines of boardrooms, academia, and consultancies to a broader, worldwide audience, where it has become the staple diet of the media and managers alike. 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."

Tom & Bob Waterman coauthored In Search of Excellence in 1982; the book was named by NPR (in 1999) as one of the "Top Three Business Books of the Century," and ranked as the "greatest business book of all time" in a poll by Britain's Bloomsbury Publishing (2002).

Tom followed with a string of international bestsellers: A Passion for Excellence (1985, with Nancy Austin), Thriving on Chaos (1987), Liberation Management (1992: acclaimed as the "Management Book of the Decade" for the '90s), The Tom Peters Seminar: Crazy Times Call for Crazy Organizations (1993), The Pursuit of WOW! (1994); The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way to Greatness (1997); and in 1999 a series of books on Reinventing Work: The Brand You50, The Project50 and The Professional Service Firm50. In 2003 Tom and publisher Dorling Kindersley released Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age; the revolutionary book, an immediate No.1 international best seller, aims to do no less than reinvent the business book through vibrant, energetic presentation of critical ideas.

Two Tom Peters biographies have been published: Corporate Man to Corporate Skunk: The Tom Peters Phenomenon and Tom Peters: The Bestselling Prophet of the Management Revolution (part of a four-book series of business biographies on Peters, Bill Gates, Peter Drucker, and Warren Buffet). In an in-depth analytic study released by Accenture's Institute for Strategic Change in 2002, Peters scored 2nd among the top 50 "Business Intellectuals," behind Michael Porter and ahead of Peter Drucker.

Tom writes, reflects, and then presents about 75 major seminar "happenings" each year, half outside the U.S. His other passion is creating and participating in Web-based and "live" radical learning communities—in an effort to induce leaders to vigorously embrace the "Technicolor Times" and partake of a diet of audacious, disruptive re-imaginings and excellent adventures.

Born in Baltimore in 1942 and residing in "crazy Northern California" from 1974-2000, Tom now lives on a 1,600-acre Vermont working farm with his wife, the artist and entrepreneur Susan Sargent. Tom is a civil engineering graduate of Cornell (B.C.E., M.C.E.) and business graduate of Stanford (M.B.A., Ph.D.); he holds honorary doctorates from several institutions, including the State University of Management in Moscow (2004).

In the U.S. Navy from 1966-1970, he made two deployments to Vietnam (as a Navy Seabee) and survived a tour in the Pentagon. He was a senior White House drug-abuse advisor in 1973-74, and then worked at McKinsey & Co. from 1974 to 1981, becoming a partner and Organization Effectiveness practice leader in 1979. Tom is a Fellow of the International Academy of Management, The World Productivity Association, the International Customer Service Association, and the Society for Quality and Participation.

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  • by Claire Ratushny Mon May 1, 2006 via blog

    Since taking over as CEO at P&G, in 2002, Alan Lafley has steadily worked to incorporate the value of design into the entire corporate organization. In an interview with Fast Company, not long ago, he stated that: "We want to design the purchasing experience. . .we want to design every component of the product; and we want to design the communication experience and the user experience. I mean, it's all design." This interview and Mr. Lafley's insights really hit the mark for me. If such a large CPG company can bring design to this level, shouldn't companies in all sectors take their lead and follow suit? Nothing speaks to the power of design like success. Haven't other CEOs taken note of P&G's financials?

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