Book Review: The Excellence Dividend

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The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last by Tom Peters is different. It’s different than other business books. It’s different from other Tom Peters’ books. Especially, it’s different than In Search of Excellence.

I remember how excited I was when I read In Search of Excellence, shortly after it came out. It was the first business book that I read that challenged the planning and the pure numbers philosophy that was all around me and instead put an emphasis on people and on messy innovation.

When In Search of Excellence was published, pretty much the entire business world and pundits of all kinds were sure that the future belonged to the Japanese. That turned out not to be true. Today, pretty much the entire business world seems to believe that the future belongs to robots and artificial intelligence. “Numbers-first” still rules in many places, often under the heading of “shareholder value.”

In Search of Excellence was well-written, unlike most of the business books at the time. Tom Peters and Bob Waterman had a clear structure, told good stories about the companies they highlighted, and supported their points with more than 20 pages of notes. In Search of Excellence was a great book, but it was pretty much a book in standard business book format. The Excellence Dividend is different.

If In Search of Excellence was the filtered and contained Tom Peters, then The Excellence Dividend is unfiltered Tom Peters. This is the man whose logo is an unadorned exclamation point. He’s passionate about everything he writes about, and he writes the way he talks.

What that probably means for you is that if you love Tom Peters, you’ll love this book. If, on the other hand, his passion and exclamation points and sloppy emotion are a problem for you, you won’t like this book very much. Whether you like Tom or not, there are at least three reasons why you probably should read it.

Reason #1: Everybody Will Be Reading This Book

Whatever you like or don’t like about Tom Peters, he’s an important voice. Unlike his other books since In Search of Excellence, The Excellence Dividend is a survey of the entire business landscape. It’s going to get a lot of reviews, and there will be a lot of blog posts and tons of conversations about the book. If you want to have a meaningful part in those conversations, you should read the book.

Reason #2: A Point of View with Sources

I have no idea how many topics Peters covers in this book, but I do know this. He has a point of view on them all. He shares that point of view, along with sources to support it. Pick an issue that you’re interested in or concerned about today, and there’s probably something on it in this book. That something will include a clear point of view and source material.

Reason #3: Books and Quotes and Sources, Oh My!

If you like quotes and book recommendations, Tom’s book is worth your attention for no other reason. The text itself is studded with quotes and book recommendations. And in case you miss the point, there are eight sections headed “READ! STUDY!” They are reading lists that will enrich your understanding of the world and deepen it as well.

In A Nutshell

In Search of Excellence was a great book for its day, and The Excellence Dividend is a great book for its day. The first was the filtered, more buttoned-down version of Tom Peters. The second, after 35 years of reading and researching and having conversations about important ideas, is the unfiltered, open-collar version of Tom Peters. Read the book because everyone else will. Read the book because you’ll gain Tom’s point of view and supporting sources on a wide range of issues. Read the book for all the quotes and examples and book recommendations.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.


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