Interview with Tom Peters on His Compact Guide to Excellence – New Book


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My guest for Episode #465 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is the legendary (my word, not his) author, consultant, and speaker — Tom Peters. His new book is Tom Peters's Compact Guide to Excellence.

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Click here to enter to win a paperback copy (through December 20).

He was previously a guest in Episode 382 of this podcast and My Favorite Mistake Episode 58. See previous blog posts about Tom and his ideas.

Today, Tom and I talk about some core concepts from his book, but we also weave through many topics including leadership that demonstrates “extreme humanism” (and leaders who do not, such as Elon Musk). As always, it's a fun, free-wheeling, and thought-provoking conversation when Tom is involved.

Note: Tom says he swears like a sailor… there are a few occasional mild curse words, so please be warned about that.

Questions, Notes, and highlights:

  • The moral bankruptcy of “maximizing shareholder value” — are we really moving away from that? Getting lip service from the Conference Board and others?
  • “People got ‘the brand called you' all wrong — it's not about self-marketing”
  • “Being good is good business. When you take the high moral ground it is difficult for anyone to object without sounding like a complete fool.”
  • Caring about people… Reminds me of Paul O'Neill saying nobody should ever get hurt at work (Alcoa) — “habitual excellence
  • The HP Way – Management By Wandering Around (MBWA) is an “intimate act”
  • Following up on our Aug 2020 discussion about leading during Covid… how is MBZA (management by zooming around) working out?
  • You've been very active on Twitter — still there? Should we still be using Twitter, even the free service?

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Video of the Episode:

Two Clips – on Elon Musk and Twitter

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (1s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog podcast. Visit our website Now, here's your host, Mark Grabam.

Mark Graban (12s):
Hi, it's Mark Graban. Thanks for listening. It's episode 465 of the podcast Tuesday, December 13th, 2022. My guest today, returning guest, is Tom Peters, the author, consultant, and speaker. He was previously guest in episode 3 82. I've gotten to talk to him before on my favorite mistake, episode 58. So it's a, a fun conversation here. I think a thought-provoking, as always from Tom. We'll give a bit of a, a warning. He, he, he says he is joking, but he, he's, it's true. He swears like a sailor. I mean, he doesn't curse constantly. There are a few occasional curse words. Nothing too colorful, nothing you couldn't really hear on network TV anymore.

Mark Graban (53s):
But please be warned about that, if that bothers you. Or you might be listening around to other people who might be bothered by that. But if you, if you want to find links to the old episodes and, and Tom's new book, and if, in fact, if you want to enter to win a paperback copy of his book that I'm giving away, you can find links in the show notes or go to lie 4 65. This is gonna be the last episode for the year. I wanna wish everybody happy holidays and we'll see you again in 2023. Now, Tom Peters. Hi everybody. Welcome back to Lean Blog interviews. I'm really thrilled that we're joined today again, by Tom Peters.

Mark Graban (1m 34s):
He was my guest previously in episode 382 of this podcast. It was back in early, well, August, 2020, and he was a guest on my favorite mistake, episode 58. So I'm happy to say welcome back, Tom. How are you?

Tom Peters (1m 48s):
382 in 2020. What's your, what's your number now, mark?

Mark Graban (1m 53s):
It's almost 470.

Tom Peters (1m 56s):

Mark Graban (1m 57s):

Tom Peters (1m 59s):
I guess the answer is way to go. The alternative is what a glutton for punishment. But no, I think it's a, I think it's a terrific program and I, and I love it, but that's a big number.

Mark Graban (2m 12s):
It is. And and that's over 16 years. And you could say way to go or get a life, or

Tom Peters (2m 17s):
Either one. Good god. 16. No, but 16 years ago you were a Capital P pioneer. That's all. That's '06. What was your, what was your medium in '06?

Mark Graban (2m 29s):
Well, I mean, I did start with the podcast, but I was either phone calls or Skype and trying to make that work. Yeah,

Tom Peters (2m 35s):
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Skype, that's, that's what I meant. So, right. Yeah. I remember, I remember ye oldie Skype.

Mark Graban (2m 41s):

Tom Peters (2m 42s):
It was like, you're Skyping somebody. Oh my God, that's incredible. I remember. And who are 10 or 15 years younger than I, long distance calls were occasions that were memorable and people would hang up on you in the middle of the call,

Mark Graban (3m 17s):
Zoom in together, zooming in from, from where?

Tom Peters (3m 21s):
South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, which is on the South Coast, 70 miles south of Boston, and 15 miles from New Bedford, Massachusetts, which I only mentioned because it was the richest city either in America or the world from whale oil, which lit all of our street lamps and so on. And then a couple of dorks in central Pennsylvania went out and discovered the hydrocarbons, and that was all she wrote.

Mark Graban (3m 58s):
But Better for the whales.

Tom Peters (3m 60s):

Mark Graban (4m 2s):

Tom Peters (4m 3s):
Much better for the whale. I didn't, I didn't hear your comeback. Yes, absolutely.

Mark Graban (4m 8s):
But if, if you wanna learn more about Tom, his website is or an even better way to get there, which I learned about from his new book, this url,

Tom Peters (4m 22s):
I was so thrilled that that was available.

Mark Graban (4m 25s):
What prompted you to get that domain name?

Tom Peters (4m 28s):
I think, as you know, I use Twitter and as you know, I talk an awful lot incessantly about taking incredibly good care of people. And I was trying to find a word that would really describe people who care and to describe it in language other than people who care. And you know, I'm an old sailor who sw still swears like a sailor, but I thought, you know what I mean, it really is a complimentary thing. You know, mark really gives a shit about these programs and that's stronger than Mark really cares.

Tom Peters (5m 8s):
And so I thought, what the hell? Let's see if, you know, as for a laugh, let's see if is available. And it was.

Mark Graban (5m 17s):
Yeah, because other curse words, that's a negative connotation.

Tom Peters (5m 21s):
Yeah. He,

Mark Graban (5m 22s):
He, well, it's, it would be more, well you could say does give or doesn't give up, but thank you for not making it saltier than

Tom Peters (5m 28s):
It was. Yeah, no, no, not, not, not intended to be any saltier than necessary, but as I said, it was, I couldn't find, which was the point, like “care a lot”, whatever, I couldn't find anything which was as commanding and demanding as that made up term.

Mark Graban (5m 51s):
Yeah. So we're gonna talk today on Tom's most recent book. I'm gonna hold up for those watching YouTube. Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence. It is indeed compact and it is based on his previous book, Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism. And so congratulations on, on the release of, of this book. Thanks. So extreme humanism, we, we talked about that last time. It was part of a manifesto you had published during the early Covid times before, right. It being a book. You mentioned Twitter. I was gonna ask, you know, in, in terms of somebody who seems to illustrate kinda the opposite of a lot of the extreme humanism principles, is Elon Musk now owner of Twitter?

Mark Graban (6m 38s):
Open-ended question here. I mean, just thoughts on at least what you read about Elon's management style.

Tom Peters (6m 45s):
Well, we have to resurrect something about two paragraphs, which is how, how severe my use of inappropriate language be describing him. I think it's his behavior towards staff in particular has been appalling. I think that the degree to which apparently, and this is reading headlines, because I don't care enough to read the 333 paragraphs apparently giving much more free reign to Zuckerberg like hatred development.

Tom Peters (7m 37s):
I mean, I, there's only one asterisk, and I hate to say it cuz I really don't like the guy, but I need to be a teeny bit fair. There was a headline, you may have seen it few weeks ago, that said, in 2024, over 50% of General Motors profit will come from electric vehicles. And you just, for whatever Musk gets the credit for putting the electric vehicle on every man, meaning you and I on our map, and the electric vehicle is incredibly powerful to dealing with climate change, et cetera.

Tom Peters (8m 26s):
And so I I I, I think his behavior's been awful. I think the way he's treating human beings is awful. I happened to be in an airport a few months ago and overheard a conversation of four or five people in line, and somebody must have said something. And this woman spoke up and she said, no, my husband and I worked on his first startup, and he was an asshole then too. So you, there's real, really bad behavior. But he gave us the damned electric car and everybody else has been copying, which is really incredible statistically and so on because it's a, you know, the numbers are such that it's a teeny share of what's on the road, but the publicity made it a, a presence as well as the degree to which the climate science stuff is burgeoning.

Mark Graban (9m 21s):
Yeah. Well, so, so back to that point of innovation for a minute. I mean, you know, you, you, as you write about here, and you've talked about before, innovation seems to be much more likely to come from small to medium size enterprises compared to big, huge corporations. I wonder if you could just talk more, even if it's general, general about that dynamic and, and what happens when the bigger companies wake up and start copying the innovator.

Tom Peters (9m 45s):
Yeah, the statistics are overpowering, first of all, and I am pleading guilty here, the guru class, as much as I hate the term, basically focuses intentionally or not on the Fortune 500 and the FTSE 100 most important stat to me is that the Fortune 500 apparently employs something like 8% of us, meaning that 92% of us work for non Fortune 500s, or the SMEs, the small and medium-sized enterprises, the SMEs have by a huge margin created well over a hundred percent of new jobs, meaning obviously that the F 500 is dumping them and the makeup is coming there.

Tom Peters (10m 50s):
So, you know, shame on me and other gurus who focused only on the big guys. You know, we could, I could go on. I would love to go on and on and on and on and on about that target. Basically, I will go on to the sense of one paragraph, just because I have to, it's required by my morality gene. In September, 1970, the economics Nobel Prize winner, Milton Freeman, wrote a book, wrote an article in the New York Times, and in the article it said, corporations have no social responsibility. And that wasn't an interpretation of the article.

Tom Peters (11m 30s):
You can find the damned sentence. At that time, in 1970, 50% of corporate profits went to shareholders, executives, et cetera, and 50% went to people, research and development, et cetera. My now discredited old buddies at McKinsey and Company repeated or did a study in 2014. And in 2014 what they discovered was that 91% of corporate profits go to share buybacks, stockholder stuff, top dog pay, and so on.

Tom Peters (12m 17s):
And nine frigging percent is left over for the workforce. And you know, my problem with that, other than the obvious is I'm willing to argue a sociologist or an anthropologist might disagree. You can tie that to the despair and the disruption that's going on right now. You know, 91% a huge share people have left behind, been left behind. And ala our Musk comment, a huge share of the job cutting has been done in an unpleasant fashion, which would make me, you know, ready to hear a radical here and there.

Mark Graban (13m 3s):
And so, you know, when you think about the conference board, I think is the, the group that put out a statement in, you know, a couple years ago, in, in in in, in your book here, I jotted this down, you, you referred, you used the phrase, the moral bankruptcy of maximizing shareholder value. The conference board put out a statement saying, Hey, other things matter, we need to think about stakeholders. And like, do you, do you see evidence of companies moving in that direction? Does it just seem like lip service?

Tom Peters (13m 33s):
Well, first of all, I go back to the last question. There are, if you take the whole SME population, there are millions of businesses that in fact behave in a moral fashion, no issue about that. And even among the bigger middle size companies in enormous number, I'm afraid that I don't see much drift among the F 250 or F 500 in that direction.

Tom Peters (14m 13s):
And you know what, interestingly enough, and it's something obviously we should talk about what may drive them a little bit in the right direction is the work-from-home stuff where you can't get away with, you know, you, it's, it's, it's a different kinda morality. You, you know, my father was garden variety. He worked for the same company, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, a utility for 44 years. And that was the standard, you know, people have said nice things about my “brand you” book. And I said, you know, first of all, they get it all wrong. They think it's about self-marketing.

Tom Peters (14m 54s):
I said, what it is about is you can no longer, and this was, you know, “brand you” book had its 25th anniversary this year, you can no longer depend on a long-term job anywhere. And, you know, so sell with a lowercase s not self marketing. You've gotta be, we've, we've gotta say Mark, and it's gotta stand for something, you know? And, you know, again, I, I think I think about it and I, I'm more than willing, and I have, I did it in print in a new book to trash McKenzie with whom, for whom I worked for eight years, and I think a moral fashion in the San Francisco office.

Tom Peters (15m 36s):
But the first, the rule I learned, which is kind of an interesting rule on day one, was you never want to be recruited for a project because you were available. You want to, you want to be, have such a fabulous reputation that seven people are attempting to steal you from your current project. And it's not an assign. And that that's, you know, that's what I meant. And presumably in professional service firms, that's not self marketing. You may not hide in a closet, but it, it is just, you know, I wanna work with this guy because I've watched and seen what she can deliver here or there or what have you.

Tom Peters (16m 22s):
And that's, that's a whole different story.

Mark Graban (16m 23s):
Yeah. And, and what, what people say a lot now maybe is an extension of the brand called you and other things you've highlighted. You know, people will say, no one else is gonna look out for your career, but you

Tom Peters (16m 36s):
Yeah, I I I'm gonna put a big asterisk on that. No one is gonna look out for you except you and your network.

Mark Graban (16m 47s):

Tom Peters (16m 48s):
You know, it's, it's literally you are as powerful, not as yourself, but the relationships that you've made over the years. So you are not alone, but it's, it's gotta be really developing things that people are remembering you about doing things socially, doing community work or what have you. But you've gotta be known as a, as a person. Back to the moral thing, who contributes it was somebody I'd wanna hang around with, as well as the fact that she or he happens to be a really top-flight coder in this little corner of the, of the AI world.

Mark Graban (17m 26s):
And, and in the book you also said, I'm just gonna read a, a quick quote and, and get some of your additional reactions to it. Being good is good business. When you take the high moral ground, it's difficult for anyone to object without sounding like a complete fool. So when you think of taking the high moral ground of, we're not gonna do consulting work for an autocratic dictatorship somewhere that's redundant to say autocratic dictatorship, I guess, but, or we are not going to, you know, come in and, and, and, and fire 50% of our people and then pressure the rest of them into working, you know, extreme hours and what might be terrible conditions. I mean, this sounds like there's, there's a question of moral ground here.

Mark Graban (18m 6s):
It's not just a matter of is it gonna make us money or not?

Tom Peters (18m 10s):
Since you're reading from my book, I get to also Yeah,

Mark Graban (18m 16s):
You'll do it better.

Tom Peters (18m 18s):
The, the, the toughest part of writing a book is picking an epigraph that is six lines that will be on the first page that are supposed to define what follows. And the lines that I chose for this book came from Dame Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, the late Anita Roddick. And she said, I want, I want to work for a company that contributes to and is part of the community. I want something not just to invest in. I want something to believe in. And, you know, that, that that's, I will let Dame Roddick, you know, answer the question that, that, that you asked.

Tom Peters (19m 5s):
I mean, I'm, I'm at a loss. I'm an old man, I'm tired. I have two and a half million miles, doing 2,700 speeches. And my frustration, you know, I I I've said in a smart alec way, that really isn't, I've said, if you want, you know, I've got a, I've got a PhD, but if you wanna be able to understand what I've written, you must show me a signed certificate of completion of the fourth grade, because there is literally nothing that requires third order calculus that I learned as a Cornell engineer or what have you.

Tom Peters (19m 50s):
It is some of the things we were talking about. It's, you know, there's this wonderful other quote, I used it here in earlier books. There was a three star, three star Army general by the name of Melvin Zais, and he spoke to the Army war college middle level officers, presumably Lieutenant colonels and majors and so on. And he went, da, and he said, I wanna finish up with one, I, I can't quote it exactly. I wanna finish up with one thing, one item that will bring you more joy, more success, contribute more to the United States Army than anything else.

Tom Peters (20m 30s):
And he said, that is, you must care. And you know, I love it coming out of a, you know, a guy who's an army guy though, you know, it's, it's really, it's just, it's fascinating. And, and, and take the military thing for a while. I grew up in the South, so you were required to like Robert E. Lee and dislike U.S. Grant. And then at some point I started, Del first of all, I moved outta the south and got away from the worst attributes thereof. That's another interesting story in and of itself, not unrelated to this commentary, but at any rate, that became a Ulysses S Grant fan and then a fanatic.

Tom Peters (21m 12s):
And here's the one story I remember, I think it was Vicksburg when Grant's troops wiped out a big part or significant part of the Confederate army. And after the battle was over, there were Confederate troops lined along a road and union officers on their horse horses riding along that road. Well, I don't know whether they had smirks on their face or not, but Ulysses s Grant rode at the back of the line, and he took his hat off when he began to ride the line, and I'm getting shivers saying this.

Tom Peters (22m 2s):
And he rode for something like six miles holding his hat in the air to respect the people who had been defeated in this battle. And that, and, and the other one just to stick, and I hate to do this thing with the military thing with ce and that, the other one I remember so strikingly is that the night or day before D-day, the British Commander Montgomery gave apparently one of the great speeches of all times, the American commander, Dwight David Eisenhower, again, I'm sorry, I'm tearing up at this stuff, went down to the beach, the D-day beaches, and for several hours in a plain uniform with no stars showing wandered along the beach, putting his arm around Mark and saying, I know it's gonna be an impossible day, but what we're doing is important or what have you, you know, speaking thereof, since you're speaking to me from Cincinnati, hey, we're talking about good Midwesterners.

Tom Peters (23m 12s):
Yeah. Grant was a Midwesterner, Eisenhower was a Midwesterner, as I'm, I always loved hardly, hardly too clever, the definition of Chicago, New York without the attitude, and it's not untrue. Yeah. Are you, I know you're in Cincinnati, are you a Midwestern or what were you I was born,

Mark Graban (23m 32s):
Born in Dayton, and I grew up in southeastern Michigan outside of Detroit.

Tom Peters (23m 36s):
Yeah, you got it, you got the credentials. No, no question about it. And I, I, I've said, I said, you know, incredibly difficult time and we got Harry Truman from Independence Missouri, and we got Dwight David Eisenhower from Kansas, and it was a good time to be run by slightly understated Midwesterners, even though we both know, that's an incredibly simplistic comment,

Mark Graban (24m 5s):
But one of those understated leaders, when you, when, when you talk about caring about people and taking the high moral ground, you know, I, I think of, again, it's the late, kind of like with Anita Roddick, the late Paul O'Neill who had been the CEO at Alcoa on his, you know, his first days as CEO he told the gathered Wall Street analyst that his top priority was employee safety and that nobody who ever worked at Alcoa should get hurt at Alcoa. Like, and, and, and hearing him retell it like the Wall Street people thought he was nuts. Yeah. Like, CEOs don't talk about safety, but it was this spark.

Mark Graban (24m 47s):
So to your point of like, nobody could disagree with safety. They might disagree that it was possible to drive it really close to zero, but that, that became the spark then for what he called habitual excellence. If you can get good at improving safety, guess what? You're gonna be good at everything else.

Tom Peters (25m 2s):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, it's a, it's a term that all of our colleagues who are watching us, listening to us should remember it, that something like that is contagious. You not only get the magnificence of a low, low accident rate, but it, it's a, it's a, it's just such a demonstration of caring and thoughtfulness and you know, it, it, it, you know, I was lucky and maybe I got it from my mother or what have you, but I'm always fascinated in that you can change, you can change the life temporarily of a grocery clerk if you have fun on the way out.

Tom Peters (25m 54s):
And you're smiling and, you know, I went to the store yesterday and I said, oh my God, I do pray that you will be able to live through these next two weeks before Christmas. And, you know, she got a grin on her face from that. And I, you know, I made her life a teeny bit better. I'm not bragging about myself. All I'm saying is it's, there's this wonderful experiment, which I just love. I I think it was in the book, but it's how I start everything I do now. And the experiment was a teacher stands in the doorway of the classroom. As the class begins, the kids are walking in and the teacher has got, you know, a smile.

Tom Peters (26m 36s):
Not a stupid ass grin, but teacher's smiling, says to everybody, mentions them by name, you know, Hey Mark, good to see you. Hey Anne, sounds to me like your cold's is getting better. You know, not no sentences, no full sentences, no more than a phrase as a result of doing that. And these are long-term hard nose, hard ass research studies as a result of doing that. Behavioral negative behavioral incidents measurably go down by something like percent and measures of academic engagement go up by 20%.

Tom Peters (27m 17s):
So, you know, you do a dramatic, dramatic implication of just you and I, I mean, lemme lemme lemme tell you, if you let me wander from that one. I have an unmistakable and I'm now 200 years old. I crossed the Delaware with Washington. I'm in the guy in the back of the boat with the, on the port side. But where was, where was I gonna go with that? I completely Oh, oh, oh, oh, okay. Be best day of my professional life, which is 200 years old. I got an assignment, which is, we could go on forever, we don't have forever.

Tom Peters (27m 57s):
That led eventually to In Search of Excellence, which is neither here nor there. My colleague, my partner, Bob Waterman was the co-author, the late Bob Waterman, and I worked in San Francisco. There was a medium size plus company just about to get to the billion dollar mark down the road in Palo Alto called Hewlett Packard. You know, a giant now. And like most giants is lost most of what made it great. Then, at any rate, Bob and I got get an interview with John Young, who's the president of HP, and we go down to Palo Alto and the first thing we do at the front desk and say we've got an interview with Mr.

Tom Peters (28m 38s):
Young, we happen to live on the 48 McKinsey on the 49th floor of the Bank of America Tower in San Francisco. If you wanted to see the CEO, you would first be greeted by the executive assistant to the executive assistant, executive's assistant. So we say we have an interview with John Young, I swear to God, and I'm probably glorifying it a teeny bit. It couldn't have been more than 90 seconds later that this guy pops out an office door and says, sticks his hand out and said, I'm John Young, glad you guys are here. So we'd already had our first holy shit moment. So, you know, HS moment two was right on the way because he then takes us inside and his office was in the en this is a, this is a billion dollar company, so this is not seven people in a, whatever, our nearly billion dollar company takes us into the engineering spaces.

Tom Peters (29m 30s):
And his office is an eight foot by eight foot cubicle with transparent walls that come up to about your nose. So we are, we, we smelled that something was afoot, but the magic was somewhere in, in the interview, he introduced us to what they called The HP Way, and the centerpiece was something called M B W A or managing by wandering around. We were struck by it. But then near the end of the interview, he said, come on guys. He said, you, you shouldn't believe me, let's do a wander.

Tom Peters (30m 10s):
And so we get up from the cubicle and, you know, spend 20 minutes walking through the nearby engineering spaces. No, in a billion dollar company, he did not know everyone's name, but he knew several people's name. They were not in any way terrified by having the president next to them. And he would ask them a question and, you know, say something like, you know, I know you got a deadline coming up on the XYZ project. Good luck for all our sake. And then he said, for the grand finale, he said, come on guys, there's somebody over in the corner I want you to meet. And there's this old fart intensively talking to a young engineer in front of one of the big computer screens of the age.

Tom Peters (30m 55s):
This was 79. And we are taking over to the side. And John looks at Bob and I, and he said, Tom and Bob, I'd like you to meet Bill Hewlett. You know, I'm glad there wasn't a TV camera on because I probably peed my pants when that, when that happened. But it was, and, and, and the point of it was Mr. Hewlett, I don't know what he is probably in his sixties or late fifties, I don't know what it was in 79, but he's having this engaged, energetic conversation with probably a 28 year old engineer pointing at a screen about some twist or tweak or turn on this thing that they were working on.

Tom Peters (31m 38s):
And I said to many people, what I learned that day was that effective leadership is an intimate act, and I choose that word intimate with the greatest possible care. It is about human connection, you know, whether it's General Eisenhower with his arm around the troop before D-Day, whether it's General Grant with his hat off or just, or Bill Hewlett and John Young, having an intense conversation with somebody half their age and the whole world turns upside down. Right? I mean, I I I, I know, you know, it's a phrase probably shouldn't be used, but literally people will die for you, as they say in the military.

Tom Peters (32m 28s):

Mark Graban (32m 28s):
Right. So now you, you talk about, you know, this, this, this leadership behavior, this intimate act. You use this phrase now management by zooming around, you know, and people are working from home, home. Can we still have that same level of connection with people through Zoom?

Tom Peters (32m 44s):
Well, let's start with you and I, I would love to be in a room with you. I have been in a room with people like you had roughly a zillion times. But back to my prior comment, I think you and I are having as intimate a conversation as we would have if you were on one side of a desk with a microphone. And I was on the other side of the desk. And I say, it's an important thing for me to say. And the reason for that is when this stuff zooming started, I was, holy shit, that's the end of human interaction.

Tom Peters (33m 24s):
I couldn't even imagine what life would be like. And we've now reached the point, which I, I think is hilarious when my wife has said this, when I do a 45-minute Zoom conversation, she said, oh my God, you look as beaten as you did when you walked out of a room with a thousand people, you know, giving if you can, you're, you're all. So, and, and, and, and then, you know, there, there're obviously a million other things that you could talk about. I, I always use, my little example is I'm running some department and, you know, we have to have a couple meetings a week or something like that.

Tom Peters (34m 5s):
And, you know, I'm doing an informal set of evaluations and I come up to Nancy and I say, Nancy, I'm sorry, I'm gonna say something critical. And she, you know, turns white. I said, listen, I happen to know that you have two parents in assisted living and two young kids. And I said, I'm mad at you. You haven't missed a single meeting and you've paid attention on every meeting. We are not anymore in the pro productivity maximization business. Please take the time off you need put your parents and kids first and, and and so on.

Tom Peters (34m 46s):
And, and you know, that, that to me is what, and I think that have, you know, pretty, I I, I don't wanna, I don't wanna paint a picture which is a hundred percent rosy. Cause I remember doing a TV show and it focused on this architecture company and they had built a new headquarters for themselves and outside the, the restrooms were three or four chairs. And you know, they said when people come out of the restroom and somebody else does, you sit down and chatter for five minutes. And you know, a lot of good things happen through that randomness. And I am not sure that those can happen today.

Tom Peters (35m 26s):
There was a guy by the name of, what was his name… Stanley Bing, Stanley, the rotor column and Fortune magazine forever and ever. This was, this was probably in let's say 1970. And for those who watched Mad Men, you'll know what I'm talking about. He said, well, he said, trust me, the end of the three martini lunch is the end of innovation. That that was the point that the spontaneity of the, you know, the first beer or what have you. Right. But no, but nothing, it's, it's not an e there's not an easy answer.

Tom Peters (36m 9s):
I think the answer that's evolving is a couple days in the office, and that may, I was, I went to a, to a carol performance Christmas carol performance. My wife and I did two days ago. And I was sitting behind two middle-aged women and we, you know, there was a break. And so they were chatting and one of 'em looked at the other one, she said, just, just tell me for my information, how many times a week do you go to the office? And she said, well, three most of the time, occasionally two. And the other woman said, yeah, that's exactly where I am. But you know, there's that kind of, of not the Elon ordering you into the office 24 hours a day, da da da da da.

Tom Peters (36m 57s):
But the fact that we can get the work done and there can be flexibility and occasionally probably there can't be. But, and, and so I, I think, I think zooming around can be a, you know, I know that it's a hell of a long-winded answer for which I apologize, but it's a big question.

Mark Graban (37m 14s):
Yeah. But I think if you give a shit about people, you'll figure out how to connect whether it can be in person or whether it has to be through Zoom. It seems like it's more about that ex that sense of, if you will, back to the, the title of the book. That, that feeling, that caring, that extreme humanism as, as you call it, if you have that, you'll figure out how.

Tom Peters (37m 36s):
Yeah. And, and the, the one big asterisk I wanna put on this, not with not with certainty, is I am arguing that this is more important in the age of artificial intelligence than it ever was before. Yes. A lot of jobs are, are being and are going to be eaten up by ai. I don't disagree with that. Just as a lot of jobs were eaten up, praise the Lord in steel mills back at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. So I'm not making light of that. But this attitude there, I, there was a line I used in something just the other day, and it may be in the book or it may be in an earlier book, but it was Johnny I, who was the head designer at Apple, and he said some line, like, in some tiny way, we are trying to save, no, in some tiny way we are trying to serve humanity.

Tom Peters (38m 37s):
And I've used that on Twitter. And some people say it's an outrageous statement, but, and there is, at least in the beginning, relative to the alternatives, there was more humaneness to the tools and the software that Apple was offering us. And I, you know, I got into a fight on Twitter just yesterday. I, I think humane can be brought into a training program or an inventory management, AI-based purchasing process. I think there's a way to code with decency.

Mark Graban (39m 16s):
Yeah. So maybe one final topic for you, Tom, you know, thinking of, you know, connections and, you know, I, for one, I wanna thank you. This is the third time that we've gotten to do a Zoom interview. I, I hope there's a, a reason or opportunity to do so or to, to get to talk with you again. But when you talk about those moments, like so you had a connection with somebody at the grocery store on kinda a different level, I think of like the first time you replied to one of my tweets and I thought, oh my God, the Tom Peters read, I forget what you tweeted, I could go back and look it, but like Tom Tom Peters read something and, and, and you, you said something, you know, kind of complimentary.

Mark Graban (39m 56s):
Okay, that felt good, but it was just more of like, wow, Tom, the person like, there that, that interaction meant a lot to me cuz I had only interacted with you by, by listening to you and, and watching you on a stage or on a giant screen. Or I could read your book and I can hear some of these things in your voice. So I appreciated what you said and the way you were saying it, but you know, I'm, I'm glad that, you know, the little Twitter interaction then led to an opportunity to have a, a deeper connection.

Tom Peters (40m 25s):
Yeah, no, I agree. And it's, you know, my sadness as to what Musk is doing because some of the directions he's going in, I do not think that I can necessarily with good conscience remain at Twitter forever and ever. Amen. And that's distressing. But to your point though, and I guess it goes back to the other point per you saying, oh my God, bless you, sir. It's Tom Peters, I got into a Twitter conversation that's now gone on for a couple years with Sharon Watkins and she was the head whistleblower at Enron. Oh wow. And wrote an incredible book about it.

Tom Peters (41m 6s):
And so we've just had a chat between two ordinary people and, and the same thing happens to me as it does to you. Oh my God, I'm talking to Sharon Watkins.

Mark Graban (41m 17s):

Tom Peters (41m 18s):
Or or being, I I was a really lousy jock except for some lacrosse, you know, talking to an athletic director from the University of Nebraska. That's somebody like,

Mark Graban (41m 34s):
Yeah. Well you, you brought this up and maybe I'll make this the final, final question you've been really active on, on Twitter. And you know, I, the other day, and, and we're recording this December 12th, so when Tom mentioned appalling behavior and actions earlier, we're only commenting on whatever happened up to the morning of the 12th, something undoubtedly has happened again or something worse. But I'll tell you the other day, I, I haven't deleted my account and I'm not trying to like get on a soapbox here. I, maybe I am, but I logged out of Twitter on my different devices and I don't know if I'm gonna go back cuz you know, to, to me the line was Elon Musk attacking Anthony Fauci, Dr.

Mark Graban (42m 15s):
Fauci. Yeah. And doing it in a way that was also just rude and transphobic and, you know, I'm just like, you know what? No, I'm just, I, I don't, to me, there, there, there, there's this moral line of like, should I be there contributing in some small way to, to that platform? What's calculus for you?

Tom Peters (42m 36s):
I think we've had a very good conversation and in retrospect it's entirely possible that 98% of the value will have come from your last five sentences because I really believe I should bow out. I have, you know, been hopelessly self-centered and saying, you know, I've got a new book out, let's let the new book be out for a couple of months. You know, that's moral compromise. But I really commend you and I really agree with you that the Fauci thing, maybe among others, but singling it out is, is absolutely important.

Tom Peters (43m 18s):
And thank you for having given me one more hardy push from someone you whom I deeply respect. So thanks a lot. I think the rest of the interview was okay for me. You know, the last two minutes or the, or the grand slam home run.

Mark Graban (43m 40s):
Well, I meant it to be a question. I, I hope it didn't come across as a scolding or trying to take No, no, I moral

Tom Peters (43m 45s):
Ground. I thought, I didn't think it's a question, I thought it was a story that was not inconsistent with all the things we've been talking about for the last 45 minutes. So, you know, question or not, I obviously didn't see, well, maybe, maybe one eighth of a de facto, not dejure scolding because I've been thinking about doing it myself and then somebody I respect who I'm face to with whether it's Zoom or not, says, you know, I just logged out scolded, but not in a scolding,

Mark Graban (44m 17s):
But I'm gonna give

Tom Peters (44m 18s):

Mark Graban (44m 19s):
I'm gonna give credit to my friend Kevin Meyer, who I, I respect very deeply who took that step before me, right? So that somebody can ask me like, why, why weren't those other awful things that he said or tolerated or brought back into the platform? Why wasn't that the line? So, you know, it could be my bad on that front as well. But appreciate you talking through that and, and, and, and, and for your comment. No,

Tom Peters (44m 45s):
I'm, I'm thrilled that to a large group of people who will be paying attention to the words we've said that you and I had the conversation, I think it's a, it's a not insignificant conversation. So good for us, he started it, but good for us.

Mark Graban (45m 2s):
Well, Tom, thank you and good for you. You know, the things that you've done in your career, including most recently, Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence. So I'm holding up here. I hope people will go and check that out. And it's, it's great, you know, to flip through and, and so many thought-provoking ideas and topics and I had a a long list of questions I knew we wouldn't have time for today. But Tom, thank you for as always being thought-provoking and thank you so much for being here. Well,

Tom Peters (45m 29s):
I appreciate it and I hate to extend this for 45 seconds. There are two names, two names on the cover, myself and Nancy Green. And I've been a design champion for a long time, and Nancy has taught me what it really means. She's one of the world's great designers. How I lucked out to have her as an a partner, I don't know, I was doing, as I did on the last book, a special acknowledgement for her at some point. And I th thought, holy shit, she's not the book designer, she's the co-author. Maybe she's the lead author. Because this book, in our effort to do it in a new way, the look, the taste, the feel, the touch, the smell, and the fact that it's a lot of really great quotes and you're saved from Tom Peters' mouthy 900 word commentary on each one of 'em.

Tom Peters (46m 24s):
So, you know, my name still comes ahead of Nancy's, but if I could do it all over again, I think I, I would put her first. So excuse me for extending our conversation by 90 seconds.

Mark Graban (46m 36s):
No apology necessary. So we've been joined by the mouthy Tom Peters, and I love that I can say this. Go to his website via That will forward you to Tom, thank you. It's been a real pleasure.

Tom Peters (46m 51s):
Well, thank you for your time, which is precious as much as mine is, and so I, I appreciate the I a I appreciate the hour and like anybody in the world of anything, I appreciate being invited back.

Mark Graban (47m 7s):
So again, I really want to thank Tom Peters for being here today. You can enter to win a copy of his new book, look for a link in the show notes or go to As always, thanks for listening. If you like the episode, please share it on LinkedIn in particular, I used to say share it on social media, but cuz of that Twitter pause, please share it on LinkedIn. Please follow, rate

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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