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Re-imagine. Tom Peters. DK Publishing. 256 pages.
(Click here or on the cover image to purchase this book.)

Buy Re-Imagine now!



Originally published on Monday, November 3, 2003 in The Miami Herald.

What to make of this book?

Tom Peters is the guru of management excellence. His very successful career as an author, speaker and consultant is the archetype for other business savants.

Peters is a brand unto himself. If he wanted to, as many other mavens in similar positions do, Peters could just repeat himself, vamping, reworking and repackaging his message with a few slight variations, maybe adding a new catchphrase or two. Or he could rest. Given his accomplishments and affluence, no one would begrudge Peters' retirement from the highly competitive routine of writing, speaking and touring.

It is to his credit that he refuses to go gentle into that good night.

Partly motivated by Sept. 11, 2001 (which he employs -- tastefully -- to illustrate a principal theme of this new book) and further provoked by anger and frustration at the perpetuation of the status quo in American business, the guru carries on.


Re-imagine! is largely Peters' attempt to give American business a good, swift kick in its behind-the-times concept of success. As others have written, he declares that there's much value in failure; that's how you learn. But taking it even further, he expounds on the value of chaos, of tossing out the rules and attempting sundry tactics and combinations. Just as the only sane reaction to insanity is sometimes more insanity so, too, is chaos the best way of dealing with these chaotic times, per Peters.

Peters liberally borrows a diversity of ideas from other forward-thinking folks like Daniel Pink, for example, whose book Free Agent Nation described a new employment model where specialists are hired on a per-project basis. The works of others like Adrian Slywotsky, Doug Hall, Seth Godin and David Ogilvy are invoked to illustrate Peters' principles. He also enlists popular cultural personalities like Jerry Seinfeld, George Steinbrenner, Willie Sutton, Eva Peron, Nicole Kidman and others for the same purpose.


He's a brilliant thinker, a provocative writer and, by all accounts, an amazing teacher, but this book is a mess -- by design. Each chapter of this tall and wide volume begins with a nine-panel grid. Eight of the panels feature photos of Peters; seven are in black and white, and a different one in each chapter is in color (apparently to illustrate the pull quote in the middle panel). A single such page might be all right, but one for each chapter? Peters is a dashing fellow, but the multiple pages of portraits serve no purpose.

The book employs a dizzying array of styles and layouts meant, perhaps, to evoke the disjointed, disparate experience of Web surfing. Peters is clearly (well, maybe not clearly) attempting to present his writing in a new and exciting style, and while it is fun to look at, a more linear, less chaotic approach might have served the material better. But that's just me; I cheerfully acknowledge that what gave me a headache might be something that other readers immediately glom on to.

Regardless, there's a ton of great stuff here, and if you have the patience and visual acuity to wade through it, you're sure to be rewarded. Me, I'm going to wait for the audio version, and hope that it hasn't been mixed in quadraphonic sound!

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