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
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.
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
Godin and David
Ogilvy are invoked to illustrate Peters' principles. He also
enlists popular cultural personalities like Jerry
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
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
Like business books? Join the club.