Thursday, March 31, 2005
Tub Thumping Tom
I went along to the opening Keynote speeches for the Better by Design conference. It was unmissable opportunity to hear Tom Peters. Quite franky it could have been a conference about water retriculation in South Otgao and I would have gone along to see him in action. In 1984 When I left my first job in advertising (Brown Christenson DDB - where I had the odd moniker Conceptualiser - my colleagues had a whip around to buy a gift. They asked if there was something I would like. I said without pause 'a copy of In Search of Excellence ' by Tom Peters. They thought I was nuts - what would a creative guy want that for? Not much has changed, they still think I'm crazy and I still think that changing processes and the way we THINK and ACT is more likely to achieve worthwhile ends than 'creative' expressions of the wrong things. What would a 2005 'best of breed' buggy whip look like? Who cares?
The first thing you notice about Peters is that he's older than you might expect. He cuts an unassuming figure in his business suit and comfortable shoes. I initially wondered about his choice of shoes until his performance began - at which point it became obvious - they are the management guru equivalent of Air Jordans. Peters is on the move from the moment he takes the stage (and take the stage he does). I'm not sure whether he possesses it or it possesses him. He kind of uncoils into his speech, which he has clearly delivered, in one variation or another, many times before. But that hardly matters. The message is salient regardless. A wake up call for business to change its mindset; to change or be made irrelevant; to put design in it's proper place - at the soul of the organisation - great tub thumping stuff.
Peters' energy seems boundless. He uses pauses in his delivery to bring the audience down, assuming the contemplative posture of an elderly Vermont man troubled by the changes in the world that he has proclaimed, but which have not always been heeded - then blasts into another stratospheric tirade. It was thrilling to watch, perfectly modulated - he had the design industry audience eating out of his hands. Pure gonzo, rock'n' roll business.
Tom Peters is definitely The One & Only™ - a point made painfully obvious by the speaker who followed him - Tim Brown of the design firm IDEO. His talk was interesting, but, really,he should have been first, not second on the roster (and he knew it). It was like eating the appetiser after the main course. But I guess the design orientation of the organisers meant they would have seen it in the opposite order (a hidden message perhaps?).
Links for this post
Better by Design
(The powerpoint slides from Peter's talk can be downloaded for free.)
Order a copy of Tom Peter's latest book Re-imagine from Amazon. (this is not your father's business book).
Order a copy of The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO (an outstanding insight into the PROCESS of design)
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