The Circle of Innovation

Kristin M. Everson (New Products Manager, The First Years, Inc.)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




Everson, K.M. (2000), "The Circle of Innovation", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 263-272.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Although primarily directed towards the basic businessperson of the 1990s, Tom Peters’ book applies to a wide range of people: the manager, the marketer, the decision maker, the person‐in‐the‐ranks, and anyone who would like to further a career or a personal endeavor. Peters draws from the arts, sports, politics, and daily life to create a blend of quotes and illustrations of true innovation. His passion for the subject is contagious, and the reader experiences an excitement and a renewed interest in turning his/her organization or own life into something inspiring and alive.

Peters’ style is admittedly a bit hard to read and follow, but the content of his words make up for the manner in which he uses those words. The book is not a volume one would pick up to read cover to cover. Nor would a reader want to plod through each chapter, building up to an end conclusion. Rather, the choppy style, loads of pictures, and dramatic use of fonts and punctuation make this a visual experience as well as an intellectual one. It is a book to pick up, open to any page, and pick out words of wisdom without needing to read from the beginning of a chapter. It is a wonderful resource when preparing for a seminar or meeting, as it is full of quotes and anecdotes to inspire an audience or break the ice in an otherwise mundane business meeting.

Peters breaks his book into chapters, not to build upon one another, but rather to organize the main points of his inspiring message. The chapters’ titles are as colorful as their content:

Distance is dead: Emphasize the top line … it’s the most important bottom line there is!Don’t attempt to “cut” your way to success.

Destruction is cool: It’s easier to kill an organization and do it over completely than to change it slowly over time.

You can’t live without an eraser: Organized, strategic forgetting is essential to innovation and success; encourage mistakes, the bigger the better.

We are all Michelangelos: Trust and respect all “jobholders” and view every basic job as an important “business” of its own.

Welcome to the white‐collar revolution: Work on your own “personal brand” … how are you personally and specifically making your company better?

All value comes from the professional services: Make every unit of your company into its own important, fully‐fledged, functioning entity.

The intermediary is doomed: Networking is in; outside specialists can often perform tasks better than inside employees who are not focused on a narrow goal.

The system is the solution: Your company should not operate on normal, conventional processes … the systems should have grace, beauty and focus.

Create waves of lust: It’s not enough to just “do it right” with a look‐alike product; go for the “wow!” effect.

Tommy Hilfiger knows: Anything can be branded nowadays, and it’s more important than ever to the success of a product or service.

Become a connoisseur of talent: Hire the youngest, most diverse, most crazy; consider “innovating” the conditions under which your employees work.

It’s a woman’s world: More and more women are purchasing and influencing goods … it’s a great commercial opportunity.

Little things are the only things: Obsess over design, realizing that it is the best tool for truly differentiating your product or service.

Love all, serve all: Obsess over incredible service to your customers, not by benchmarking others, but by totally re‐designing the way you do business.

We’re here to live life out loud: we need revolutionary leaders in these times … leaders who dispense enthusiasm and live on the edge.

The book’s message is certainly a necessary and inspiring one. However, the reader must question the practicality of the proposals. While suggesting that we revolutionize office politics and shun conventionality, Peters is ignoring the fact that these are a very real part of many organizations today. It is wonderful in theory, but very difficult in practice in many situations. The reader would perhaps benefit from some more practical suggestions on how to effect these necessary changes into an already‐established organization, especially if one is not exactly at the top of the corporate ladder. “Yes, I feel this, but how can I do this on my own?” quickly replaces the reader’s initial enthusiasm. It seems that such innovative thinking must somehow be adopted by the core of the organization, with more than one champion.

However, the world certainly needs its visionaries, and Peters fits the bill. In the end, the reader is left with the tools and the mindset for effecting real change, even if it appears to be impractical. The first step toward achieving transformation is conceiving of it, and Peters’ conclusion is simple: the world is changing in such a way that we can no longer be successful merely by keeping pace; we must be ahead of the pace. We can’t search out the best and follow it, we must create the best and live it. And this forward thinking does not just apply to product development or starting a business, but to management, quality, careers, our very lives. We must build this thinking into everything from our coffee makers to daily projects to where we sit in our offices.

Innovation is something that many companies strive for in their products and services. But unlike many of these companies, Peters does not define innovation as the “absence of mediocrity”. Rather, his innovation is a radical way of thinking that is offered not as a suggestion, but as a necessary way of life. One might challenge him, however, and suggest that the ability to concretize that innovation is a necessary further step. The truly successful individuals and organizations will be those who can take Peters’ message and actualize it for their very own.

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