New Work Survival Kit 2012+++++

Here’s a personal improvement checklist – choose at least one area for your own improvement efforts – preferably one that makes you ‘wince’ about your current performance!

  • Mastery! (Best/Absurdly Good at Something!)
  • “Manage” to Legacy (All Work = “Memorable”/“Braggable” WOW Projects!)
  • “USP”/Unique Selling Proposition (R.POV8: Remarkable Point of View … captured in 8 or less words)
  • Networking Obsession (From vertical/hierarchy/“suck up” loyalty to horizontal/“colleague”/“mate” loyalty)
  • Entrepreneurial Instinct (A sleepless … Eye for Opportunity! E.g.: Small Opportunity for Independent Action beats faceless part of Monster Project)
  • CEO/Leader/Businessperson/Closer (CEO, Me Inc. Period! 24/7!)
  • Mistress of Improv (Play a dozen parts simultaneously, from Chief Strategist to Chief Toilet Scrubber)
  • Sense of Humor (A willingness to Screw Up, Shrug & Move On)
  • Comfortable with Your Skin (Bring “interesting you” to work!)
  • Intense Appetite for Technology (E.g.: Are you a “leading edgeuser” of Social Media?)
  • Embrace “Marketing” (Your own CSO/Chief Storytelling Officer)
  • Obsessed with Renewal (Your own CLO/Chief Learning Officer)
  • Execution Excellence! (Show up early! Leave late! Sweat the details!)
  • EXCELLENCE. PERIOD. (What else?)

Join the Tom Peters Excellence Academy for support and encouragement in your improvement efforts.

Excellence Academy 2: Coming Soon!

In Tom Peters we have a master of modern management theory who shares his insights freely in a variety of formats (Books, ebooks, speeches, papers, twitter, blog, website etc). His ideas have high currency, particularly amongst entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and new startups. The list of his literary achievements is long but equally interesting is the impact he has had on how business is done. Over the years we have come across many people who attest to having changed the way they work by Tom’s persuasive and emotional arguments. Many of them speak of life changing transformations.

In TPC, we work with clients who want to adopt these ideas and to inspire others to do the same. Our focus is almost totally on application;-) We find that the problem clients are dealing with is rarely that people lack knowledge – it’s  converting knowledge into practice that is usually the difficult part.

The things people tell us they appreciate from our interventions include;

  • Getting feedback about current performance
  • The chance to debate the relevance of the ideas to them
  • Reshaping ideas to deal with their own problems
  • Tools that help them come up with new solutions for their situation
  • Having a go at a new skill or behaviour
  • Getting moral support from fellow students
  • Having fun

We’ve been doing this in face-to-face settings for over 25 years, and the Excellence Academy moves this field of activity into virtual space. This gives us the chance to reach a much wider audience and to stay connected as virtual buddies to provoke and support over a longer period of time.

There is a groundswell of thinking about teaching and learning going on at the moment. Russell Ackoff and Daniel Greenburg (Turning Learning the Right Side Up, Roger Schank (Teaching Minds, 2011), 2008) and Zoe Elder (Full On Learning, 2012), all in their own ways advocate approaches to learning that centre on practice not teaching. The age of the internet means that there is no reason for a person to be ignorant about any subject that interests them. Education should focus on helping learners to use this information thoughtfully to achieve goals that matter to them.

To make sure we aren’t just another source of content, our focus in the Excellence Academy will be:

  1. Challenging peoples’ preconceived beliefs and norms
  2. Defining fresh challenges for themselves
  3. Shaping work projects to drive activity from which they can learn
  4. Provoking, reminding and inspiring them to act and to continue acting
  5. Reflecting on what they have learned
  6. Feeling part of a community of learners
  7. Helping people feel intrinsic reward for their efforts

The Academy will have its own web platform, and the program of activities will spread over 6 months. Its focus will be on supporting people to learn about improving performance in chosen aspects of their work life with the inspiration of Tom Peters to guide us. For more information contact

Excellence Academy 1

In 2013 TPC will be launching a Distance Learning Programme designed to help people focus on Excellence in their own situation. Here is an outline of our latest thinking. All input and reactions welcome!

Target Audience:

Small/medium sized business leaders, unit/team leaders and individual professionals. People who are looking for stimulation and support to develop and improve themselves and their teams, and have a more positive impact.


The Excellence Academy is a place to focus on aspects of your business that can benefit from change.

We will explore, discuss, and try out (new) approaches to increase the distinction and merit of your (and your team’s) work.

This involves improving self-awareness, and opening your mind up to alternative ways of working.

Programme Structure:

“You can’t just do what you know you should do. Why not? Because your subconscious (that is in charge of your daily activities) isn’t listening to what you have to say” Roger Schank, Teaching Minds, (2011)

To address this learning challenge, the Excellence Academy programme will be like a slow burning carbohydrate diet – ie it contains a sustained, steady delivery of energy. It will emphasize trying things out, practicing and learning from experience and will keep theoretical discussions to the minimum.

There will be a series of asynchronous modules, the first of which enables everyone to set their own excellence agenda for the next 180 days.

Subsequent modules (4?) will deal with a series of topics, expressed as problem or challenge statements, such as:

  • “the way ahead for me/us is far from clear”
  • “we/I need more intrapreneurship”
  • “our bureaucracy is strangling us”
  • “our workforce is too one-dimensional in its behaviour”
  • “we/I don’t have enough commitment from our employees/suppliers/partners”

We’ll choose a commonly accepted issue for the second module and finalise the remaining modules with input from participants. These will be chosen to make up a balanced Excellence agenda.

A final module will sum up the progress made and invite all participant to submit/present their work to others.

Module Structure:

The following broad structure will be used for each module which will run over a month:

  • Explore your current understanding of this topic (ie diagnose the ‘problem’ and its cause)
  • Consider alternative approaches/case studies/examples (ie. challenge people to look afresh at the subject and evaluate the comparative benefits of alternative approaches)
  • Take part in an activity that develops your understanding (ie explore alternative approaches in a safe environment and work in a team to achieve a result)
  • Decide on ways to incorporate new ways of working into your life (ie experiment with actions and that are different to your normal actions and use your influence to persuade others to co-operate)
  • Review and learn from experience of applying the new ideas (ie evaluate and judge your experience)
  • Record progress in your Portfolio (ie describe your new understanding/belief)

Teaching methods include:

  • Stories
  • Case Studies
  • Simulations
  • Games
  • Practice
  • Do and copy
  • Work in a team
  • Learn from mistakes (Do, try, fail, review, re-do)

Throughout the programme, everyone will build their own Excellence portfolio, which they use to record their actions, learning and developing awareness of the specific concept being studied. Portfolios are presented for any participant to read and comment on and everyone will be encouraged to do so.

Portfolio assessment by TPC can be offered as an optional (paid-for?) extra.

A Twitter Hashtag and facebook page will provide online commentary for participants.

Web Platform:

  • Regular (daily?) inspirational/reminder quotes will be sent
  • Course materials – video, audio, book references, white papers, articles, url links assessments, tools, provided
  • Course activities/discussions via online discussion board
  • Journal webspace to keep individual portfolio records
  • Occasional live discussions/webinars provided as required/desired


An initial charge of £250 followed by a monthly charge (£100pm) for access to Excellence Academy (Total £750).

Future Shape of Education?

From the earliest days of the Web, it was obvious to many of us that the impact of the internet on education was going to be huge. An early inkling of the tectonic shift that was underway was the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Open Course Ware project ( Initiated in 1999, the project provided materials for its first set of undergraduate courses free on the Web in 2002. By November 2011, there were 2,080 MIT undergraduate and graduate level courses available online.

MIT’s groundbreaking initiative has been followed up by many other academic institutions, and the body of work that has been created is a valuable resource for people all over the world.

This open sharing of intellectual property has moved up to a completely different level with the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Pioneered in 2007 by David Wiley of Utah State University, MOOCs reached a turning point in 2011 when a course on artificial intelligence enrolled a staggering 160,000 participants!

MOOCs are now available on a wide variety of subjects and typically run for about eight weeks. MOOCs are (so far) free of charge, and access is unrestricted. MOOCS exploit the latest Web technology and accommodate a wide variety of educational content, delivery media, and learning support mechanisms. New organizations such as Udacity, and Coursera have sprung up alongside Carnegie Mellon’s OLI, Harvard’s edX project and MIT’s OCW to help fulfill the burgeoning worldwide demand for online education.

I recently enrolled in a MOOC delivered by Professor Kevin Werbach of Pennsylvania University. The subject is Gamification—defined as the use of games design techniques and games elements in non-games contexts. The professor is using feedback from the participants in a book he is writing on Gamification. So, he benefits from the interactive nature of the Web experience along with his students, and he is no doubt picking up plenty of feedback from the 10,000 participants who are still active out of the 77,000 who originally signed up for the course. This 10,000 out of 77,000 might seem disappointing, but program monitoring shows that around 44,000 people are accessing the two hours per week of video content but not submitting the course work.

I’m finding the MOOC learning process much more engaging than I had expected. There is sufficient assessment, albeit of a fairly mechanical level, to help me consolidate my learning. I feel that I’ve picked up something useful that I can apply in my work. I haven’t ventured far into the community forum of the course, as hacking my way through thousands of posted comments doesn’t feel like a productive use of my time. Maybe next time.

Critics of MOOCs are dismissive about the educational value added. They point out that there’s no credible qualification issued at the end of a MOOC. A “certificate of attendance” issued to participants who complete the course may not hold any weight in getting a job or earning credit toward more formal education. Critics say such mass access education is never going to provide the quality or intensity of focus that can be gained in a tailored academic course. Perfectly valid criticisms, perhaps, but personally I think they miss the main point.

These early manifestations of open courses are an indication of a shift in the balance of power away from educators being in control to learners taking control of their own personal development. I see these open courses a bit like a smorgasbord of educational offerings. They offer a whole new menu of exciting courses for students who want the scope to pick and choose what they spend their time learning. Life-long learning becomes a viable option for people with the resolve to do the work and access to a decent broadband service!

What will happen if providers start to charge for course admission remains to be seen, but for the moment, as an ongoing experiment in educational flash mobbing, it makes for fascinating watching.

Here are a few MOOC courses to take a look at….

Coursera: Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies

Udacity:How to build a blog

Open Learning Initiative:Introduction to Psychology

Blog post first published on

What did you do in the Great Recession, Mummy/Daddy?

Everyone agrees that it will be innovators, entrepreneurs and people who don’t follow the crowd that will play a key role in getting the world back onto an even keel after this greatest of recessions. Folks who follow Tom Peters and TPC tend to be a feisty lot, who aren’t easily daunted by adversity, and we’d expect them to be at the forefront of the global recovery.

Are you one of these trail blazers? Are you doing your bit to cope with or even thrive in these times of austerity? We’re looking for inspiring stories of the way people are finding innovative ways to do business in a period of almost permanent recession. How do you keep yourself and others motivated and focused?

We want to start a collection of examples of how people like you are creating the future shape of work . Send us your story and we’ll publish our favourites on this blog. Here are a couple of examples to get you started:

Sam Mogannam of Bite Rite Markets whose quirky approach gets sales per square foot that are as good as an Apple store.

Jeff Charney, on how to keep a work culture fresh.

We’d love to hear from you.

After the Party was over

For completeness, I have added this final blog in my series on the London 2012  Olympics. It was originally published on

Now that the first Olympic 2012 Party in London is over (Paralympics starts on 29th August!) we Brits are all asking ourselves whether we are going to get the legacy we had hoped for. It seems to me that there is a great deal too much focus on whether we can anticipate any profits from our investment. Here are just a few examples of what I think we will gain from the investment:

1. Looking at the tangibles we are inheriting, we have paid a high price for the regeneration of the area where the new Olympic park was built, but a superb job has been done. A previously derelict and neglected area has transformed with iconic venues, extensive parkland and accommodation that will become 2800 new homes for local people.

There is still debate about whether the athletics stadium will become a white elephant, as we are still arguing about who will take it over after the Games, but the velodrome and aquatic centre look likely to become fabulous resources for everyone to enjoy.
2. A second aspect of the legacy must be the image of the UK that the world got to see. Despite worries about whether we were ready for the Games, everything went to plan, finished early and kept within budget (albeit revised upwards!).

We did get a little edgy when members of our military were called in at the last minute to substitute for the shortfall of security recruits, but it turned out to be a real asset to have those guys around the park. They certainly made me feel more secure, that’s for sure!

Even the doom and gloom around traffic chaos came to nothing. Maybe we were nudged into lower expectations, or persuaded to behave differently, but the much-heralded gridlock never materialised.

3. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were a chance to showcase the British character and talents. I’ve  seen them variously described as marvellous, ambitious and slightly bonkers but then, I can’t think of better words to describe our nation. I thought the most magical aspect was Thomas Heatherwick’s beautiful Olympic Flame with its 204 copper petals all coming together to form a united cauldron of light. What a brilliant combination of function and beauty it was, just like the best of British innovation over the years;)

4. And what of the people of the UK – how did we acquit ourselves? We got a sense of the latent enthusiasm that was about to explode across the country with the Torch Relay. This covered 8,000 miles across the UK over the 70 days before the Games started, involving 8,000 individuals as Torch Bearers, and an estimated audience of 13 million spectators. It was a magnificent welcome to London for the Games. By the time the various road races got going, the crowds had got into the swing of turning up and cheering, and how they cheered!
The 80,000 volunteers that were recruited as so called Games Makers have rightly received universal acclaim as representatives of this country. As exemplars of engagement and selfless service, they came to embody the spirit of the Games. How impressive is it that we are capable of rallying a crowd of keen and willing contributors when there is a cause that matters to them. There must be something more we can do with that latent energy in future.
5. Finally, the motto of the Games was Inspire A Generation, and it’s unimaginable to me that we won’t achieve this. There were stellar performances from so many dedicated Olympians; Michael Phelps in the swimming, Mo Farah in the long distance running, Usain Bolt in the sprinting, the list goes on and on. Across 26 completely different sports, athletes excelled themselves and showed what can be done by adding pure, hard graft to their talent. The team of athletes representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland outclassed themselves, and smashed their own medals target of 48, winning 65 in the end. I know we had the home advantage, but if that means we get a new generation with sporting ambitions ignited, that will indeed be a legacy to treasure.
So what of those that complain about the bottom line? It has cost a fortune, they say, and so far, no-one can make the financial case for the Games. In fact some say it has cost lost revenue. But for me that misses the point. We in TPC define Excellence as being a combination of systems plus passion, tangibles and intangibles. My money is on the intangibles having a massive impact on our country; confidence, ambition, community spirit and optimism may all be hard to measure, but we’ve shown we can use them to good effect to stage these Olympics. Let’s hang onto them and use them to build a stronger country for the future.

Going for Gold

The Olympics are a fantastic arena to observe what Excellence looks like, but just as importantly to remind ourselves about the price that has to be paid by anyone that aspires to achieve it.

Today, the GB team got their first team gold medal in the women’s rowing pairs with Helen Glover and Heather Stanning showing their cool confidence right from the off. Their partnership is remarkable, – Helen only took up rowing four years ago and they have been rowing together for merely two years. One story I heard was that they were paired up as the least successful members of the squad – an afterthought, perhaps, or clutching at straws? Well, today’s evidence proves it was an inspired decision. It just goes to show what the right combination of talents, with the right coaching of course, can achieve.

The consistent story behind all the medal winners is their dedication to the development of their talents.  As neuroscientist Daniel Levitan has researched, “it comes down to that in order to be a world-class expert in anything, be it audiology, drama, music, art, gymnastics, whatever, one needs to have a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice.” This of course explains why it is that nations which identify and then hot-house promising youngsters do so well. I’m thinking here of the Chinese divers that our UK medal-hopeful, Tom Daley, finds such formidable competition; whilst he is fitting in his school studies with his four hours a day training, the impression is that his Chinese opponents simply practice diving all day.

But surely it’s not just down to natural aptitude and hard work? In TPC our formula for producing Excellence is that it takes a combination of Systems plus Passion. The training and coaching fits on the Systems side of this equation, but the energy to keep going definitely fits on the Passion side! For every winner there are many losers who have to find the will to get back on the treadmill in search of their moment of glory. The vast majority will never make it and the ones that do are able to remain undaunted by ‘failure‘ on the way. They say that success breeds success, but what about failure? Is this resilience a quality that can be learned and developed, or is it something you are born with?

Good luck to all the Olympic athletes, successful or otherwise. We wish you the fortitude to stick with your search for Excellence. It’s inspiring to us all.

Lessons in Excellence from the Olympics

Just over 3 days left now until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. The last rehearsal for the ceremony took place last night, and by all accounts went well, with all who attended (60,000 folks!) being sworn to secrecy. One chap who posted a photo onto Twitter obviously thought better of this breach of trust and took it down pretty quickly. One blogger  (@JillLawless) describes it as “splendidly British and magnificently bonkers“, whilst another (@petehendrick) declares “If you’ve got plans Friday night, cancel them. Opening Ceremony out of this world.” So there you have it! I shall be watching, how about you?

Since this is a Future Shape of the Winner blog, I will be thinking about which of the features of our model we can see in action during the course of the Olympics and whether there is any learning for the rest of us mere mortals!


To start at the very beginning, the most obvious analogy is the pure Talent that is on show at the Games. Every single Olympian or Paralympian athlete  is a textbook example of the core element of an Excellent organisation – an individual who is determined to be a master at their own craft. (By the way,that’s our definition of Talent) It seems so tough that there can only be one winner in every competition, which inevitably means there will be far more ‘losers’ than ‘winners’. But having the chance of glory is clearly a really powerful incentive to thousands of would-be gold medal winners.

The drive to achieve Personal Best Performance that matters so much in sporting circles gives those of us in business something to reflect on about our own capabilities. Do we each know what our own current Personal Best is or are we stuck in a rut of sameness or mediocrity? And if we do have a sense of our current best, have we got a plan to better it?

As leaders, how do we manage to set up a situation at work where people will want to strive to be as good as they can be? What is our equivalent of setting Olympic Goals?


Whenever there is a big prize to be won, there is always the chance that less scrupulous characters will find ways to create advantage for themselves.  I think that sport has done a pretty good job of making the disincentives for the use of performance enhancing drugs outweigh the benefits and have put in place some really reliable processes that check that people are complying. Doubtless there will be folks that are still trying to circumvent these rules, but it is harder and harder to make it pay! In FSW, this is an example of  Performance characteristic 17 in our Excellence Audit; Our measures drive truly professional behaviors in our team and the right partnership behaviors with clients, customers, and suppliers.

When you examine some of the greedy and selfish behaviour amongst our business people and politicians that we’ve seen in the last few years I do question the balance of measures that we find in so many organisations. Maybe we can learn some lessons about the surveillance and punishment we see in sport for ethical misdemeanours?


I’m not much enjoying the rearrangements that are being made in London to facilitate the movement of traffic during the Olympics. Unfortunately, I have three rehearsals this week at the BBC in Maida Vale (NW of the city) and my journey from the east normally takes me through the centre. Not this week, I can assure you! On my last two trips, I had to allow 2.5 hours and 1.75 hours for a journey that is a mere 25 miles. Oh dear;-(  Then again, it is just for 3 weeks!

Olympic Torch Relay Day 65

On the Olympic Torch’s second day in the capital city, with only 5 days until the opening ceremony, it passed by the TPC office in Hornchurch. The torch has been travelling right round the British Isles since 19th May and will be carried by 8000 individuals who have been nominated by their communities as inspirational people. It really is a moment for each of them to shine (as the relay slogan declares). I’ve watched several of them run their leg and it was great to see them carry the torch with their own style. Some just walked, others sprinted, some danced, skipped, flipped, rode a bike or a horse. The zip wires and helicopter landings were left for the professionals to carry out. We were lucky that the weather was splendid for our leg of the relay, and the crowds came out to line the streets of the town centre. In a flash the relay passed through, but the parties started early and ran on for several hours.


The excitement in the Capital is building up, and although we have the usual last minute panics (security) and hissy fits (border staff and train drivers), I think it is amazing how much has been achieved without any obvious fuss at all. The various new stadia that have been built at Stratford East London look stunning, and promise a great audience experience. The sand has been imported into Horseguards Parade for the Beach Volley Ball and the Olympic Traffic Lanes have all been marked up. Although getting around the capital will probably be difficult, that is nothing new for London commuters. We’ve just all got our fingers crossed that the torrential rain we have suffered over the past 3-4 months will hold off until the middle of August.

The opening ceremony is shrouded in secrecy, but is billed as being a celebration of things British. Danny Boyle, the producer famous for Slumdog Millionaire is in charge of the proceedings, so it will be thoughtfully done, I’m sure.

We’ll be reporting our reflections on the proceedings from time to time. Can’t promise it will be unbiased, I’m afraid, but it will be our point of view.

Madeleine McGrath posted this on July 22, 2012, in Brand.
Permalink | Bookmark and Share

No one likes a Show-Off!!

The concept of ‘Brand You’ (BY) is yet another example of Tom Peters being way ahead of his time. The importance of individuals seeing themselves as a business-unit-of-one has been present in his writing since the book Liberation Management in 1992, but the first published reference to Brand You that I am aware of was in his 1997 Fast Company article entitled The Brand Called You. Two years later, the Brand You 50 List (1999) went much further, giving aspiring Michealangelos a comprehensive, if rather unstructured, set of guidelines for developing themselves and their reputation. More recently, The Little Big Things (2010) is full of ideas for budding Brand Yous. 

As ever with ideas that are fresh off the drawing board, Tom Peters Company’s (2001) Brand You workshop was attractive mostly to early adopters in the market. From the outset, BY has appealed to the individual, and I’ve seen a lot evidence of it being taken and applied energetically by people in all walks of life. Any number of people have told me that Tom’s work on BY encouraged them to follow their personal ambitions and for some it even changed their lives.

But companies have been altogether more resistant to the concept; why would a company encourage its people to develop distinctiveness and then go out and promote themselves to their network? Surely this simply makes it more likely that their best people will be snapped up by the competition?

That was then, but so much has changed in the meantime; technology, society, emerging markets, global recession etc. etc. The Feb 2012 edition of Fast Company included an article entitled “This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business” that brings the debate up-to-date. It seems that a new generation of employees is only too well aware of the need to develop and hone their skills to cope with the ever-changing world of work. So I was delighted that our South African partners, Business Results Group, managed to find a big company client for their first foray into their market with the TPC Brand You Workshop. The client is an internal business improvement function in a large multinational company that has had much success in the first few years of its existence. The boss is keen that they don’t rest on their laurels, and sees BY as a way to consolidate and to build on the new function’s reputation through the developing and promoting the expertise of their individual professionals.

Our latest version of the BY workshop has been brought up to date to acknowledge the many attitudinal, economic and technological changes that have come about in recent years. During last month’s workshop in South Africa, we found that participants saw that Brand You was a fabulous tool for them as professionals to build their personal reputation both inside and outside the company. They were also glad to have the chance to take more control of their careers and what is being said about them.

I’ve been mulling over what it takes for a company to see the benefit of its people embracing BY concepts and I’ve concluded what it boils down to is that fewer and fewer companies these days are offering their employees a job for life. Companies just can’t make that kind of promise to their people, because so little is certain. So the next best thing a company can do is to help to ensure that their people are employable for life. Ironically those companies that make this kind of commitment may well gain the loyalty of their people even however long their stay with the company.

Madeleine McGrath posted this on July 6, 2012, in Brand.
Permalink | Bookmark and Share

Page 2 of 41234