Tom Peters wants you to believe that he is selling great insight. When he burst on the scene after publishing In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies (Collins Business Essentials), he instantly became the darling of the TQM movemnent. And he deserved it too. He was an engaging speaker, made great videos, and his first book hit a raw nerve when it came to the quality of American manufacturing.
I hadn’t heard the name or thought about Tom Peters in a long time. By life’s funny coincidences, right after reading a book review on Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, I stumbled upon www.tompeters.com. Sham is a book about the self-improvement industry (Tony Robbins, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, et al.), written by a guy who used to work in it. The most interesting thing was that their sales cycle was 18 months.
Wait a minute… if the products are there for self improvement, why would you need to buy them again? As I’m sure you’ve guessed, it’s because they never actually help anyone. And, after 18 months, they’ve forgotten about their last bad purchase and are ready to spend more on seminars, tapes, books – you name it.
Tom Peters is a little slicker than that. He’s managed to fool a lot of people into believing that he’s not in the same class as the Tony Robbins of the world. But really he’s no different. What he’s selling is inspiration. If you ever attend one of his seminars with some co-workers, look around and see who’s there with you. It sure isn’t any C-level employees (at least not at the places I’ve worked).
Tom Peters is selling the notion that you, me, anybody can change your company from the bottom up. I attended a seminar he gave at the time he published The Brand You 50 : Or : Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an ‘Employee’ into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!. It was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. It wasn’t even a speech. It was a performance. By the time he’s done, you’re all pumped up, ready to change the world, and he’s all drenched in sweat, ready to change his shirt.
A little time goes by, and while Tom certainly got around to changing his shirt, you never did get around to changing the world. But 18 months later, man, let’s go see Peter Senge…