Re-imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



(2004), "Re-imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 53 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Re-imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age

Tom PetersDorling KindersleyISBN: 1405300493£20

At the start of each chapter, Peters has a little “rant”: the term he uses to describe strident attacks aimed at shaking managers out of complacency. These don’t prove anything; they are just rants. Perhaps this is the way with gurus and prophets.

The whole book picks up on this theme: capital letters litter the text (shouting?), and it is underscored with colourful designs. There are also picture pages seek to provoke (and 80 photos of Tom himself). It is clear that he is trying to unsettle his readers, to shake them up and make them re-think some things they may not have thought about for sometime.

He puts branding and design as the heart of the new enterprise – not just in terms of “improving the look”, but as devices for arousing passion and emotional attachment, making the customer experience stand out. It is this that is followed through in the book itself – this is a re-imagining or re-invention of a management book as “a new form of experience”.

The ideas are not new, but they are put over with fresh insights and real energy. For example, though others have discussed revolutionary changes in the nature of employment, Peters goes a step further: “white collar employment as we’ve known it is dead”. Humans are fast becoming redundant.

Re-imagining means much more than continuous improvement: this too little, too late. We must no longer aim to get better; we must be more revolutionary. The world is getting messier – and organisations must follow suit. “Permanence is the last refuge of those with shrivelled imaginations.”

So all the things we’ve learned about over the last 20 years (including some of them from Peters himself) are out. The only job of HR departments will be to manage intellectual capital. Customer satisfaction will be replaced as an objective by customer success.

The really successful organisations will not provide “good” goods or services; they will provide experiences and solutions. Their business is the dream business – marketing the fulfilment of customer dreams, not merely exceeding expectations.

Branding is the fundamental process of identity – not just image but “the expression of the heart”: branding is about meaning, not marketing, about values not logos.

Peters suggests that companies must define their purpose and value proposition in a crowded marketplace, constantly re-imagining and reinventing themselves to stay relevant and successful. Individuals also must play the same game – seizing power when it is not offered.

There are plenty of checklists in the book, each with a paragraph or two of exposition. So: 25 principles of selling; 25 ways of attracting talent, including weirdos. Towards the end, there are 50 leadership characteristics, including creating opportunities, saying “I don’t know”, developing talent, thriving on paradox, honouring rebels, making big mistakes and engendering trust.

This is a book that is definitely worth a read – it will probably interest and annoy you in equal measures. Whether it persuades you of Peters’ arguments is uncertain – but try it anyway. Then re-imagine your own future!

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