Tom Peters on Seth Godin on Thinking Differently

Tom Peters, author of “In Search of Excellence,” uses Seth Godin’s writing to argue that “you can’t be remarkable by just following remarkable people.”

I think that there is an element of truth in that. Benchmarking can bring you up to best practices, but it may not move you beyond them.

But I disagree with Peters in one respect – I think it is tremendously useful to, and you can learn a lot by, studying successful people and organisations. You may end up doing something different with what you learned, but studying what works for other people and companies is often a key input for developing your own path and approach to success.

And in addition, if you are well behind the pack, Benchmarking can be a great tool to get yourself competitive in the main game and find out what you are not doing and need to do. Eventually of course you may want to do something different and innovative to get ahead of the pack and define a completely new game, but learning and mastering the basics first is perhaps a great start.

In any case, Peter’s seminar provides food for thought and a good starting point for discussion.

3 Responses to Tom Peters on Seth Godin on Thinking Differently
  1. Matt Moore
    July 16, 2007 | 5:31 AM

    Everyone talks about "best practice" in relation to benchmarking. But it's mostly just mediocre practice. It's what lots of other people do. Can they all be the best?

    "Aiming for mediocre practice" should be the slogan for most benchmarking exercises. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it though.

  2. Cody McKibben
    July 27, 2007 | 3:11 PM

    Lauchlan, I agree with you that you can gain a lot from studying successful people and businesses. That's why I interview executives and entrepreneurs! But, I also agree with Peters in that a lot of corporate benchmarking is just that — making the benchmark (meaning you get to stay in business — or stay on the team, in other words). But to really SET the benchmark, you need to look at what is currently on the fringe — look at the weird and different, and especially examine cases outside of your industry to bring fresh new ideas and adapt them to your business from other places.

  3. Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon
    July 28, 2007 | 12:30 AM

    Hi Cody and Matt,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree with your comments re: best practices.

    My attitude at the moment though is that it depends where you start. For example, suppose a growing company has has been highly entrepreneurial, but with growth needs processes in place. A cultural shift needs to take place both in the company and in the mindset of the directors/owners.

    For companies such as this that are coming from behind and want to catch up with (and ultimately overtake) others, my view is that best practices van be an extremely useful tool to get to the point where the company is in the main ballpark with the other players.

    To win in that ballpark, of course, requires something extra, and this 'thinking differently' is of course what this blog is about.

    So basically what I'm saying is that if you're *with* the pack and want to get ahead, or you are ahead and want to stay there, then 'best practices' may not get/keep you there. But if you're behind the pack and want to catch up, then I think best practices can be a great tool.

    The other point I'd like to make is that if you follow the Benchmarking methodology as developed by APQC, what it really amounts to at the end of the day is knowledge sharing between companies. As they open up to each other to compare practices, it allows a 2-way knowledge transfer, which is stimulating to development right now for both companies. The companies get benefits and move ahead right now.

    So, I think the question of the value of best practices / benchmarking is more complicated than Tom Peters represents it.

Tom Peters on Seth Godin on Thinking Differently

Tom Peters, author of “In Search of Excellence,” uses Seth Godin’s writing to argue that “you can’t be remarkable by just following remarkable people.”

I think that there is an element of truth in that. Benchmarking can bring you up to best practices, but it may not move you beyond them.

But I disagree with Peters in one respect – I think it is tremendously useful to, and you can learn a lot by, studying successful people and organisations. You may end up doing something different with what you learned, but studying what works for other people and companies is often a key input for developing your own path and approach to success.

And in addition, if you are well behind the pack, Benchmarking can be a great tool to get yourself competitive in the main game and find out what you are not doing and need to do. Eventually of course you may want to do something different and innovative to get ahead of the pack and define a completely new game, but learning and mastering the basics first is perhaps a great start.

In any case, Peter’s seminar provides food for thought and a good starting point for discussion.

3 Responses to Tom Peters on Seth Godin on Thinking Differently
  1. Matt Moore
    July 16, 2007 | 5:31 AM

    Everyone talks about "best practice" in relation to benchmarking. But it's mostly just mediocre practice. It's what lots of other people do. Can they all be the best?

    "Aiming for mediocre practice" should be the slogan for most benchmarking exercises. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it though.

  2. Cody McKibben
    July 27, 2007 | 3:11 PM

    Lauchlan, I agree with you that you can gain a lot from studying successful people and businesses. That's why I interview executives and entrepreneurs! But, I also agree with Peters in that a lot of corporate benchmarking is just that — making the benchmark (meaning you get to stay in business — or stay on the team, in other words). But to really SET the benchmark, you need to look at what is currently on the fringe — look at the weird and different, and especially examine cases outside of your industry to bring fresh new ideas and adapt them to your business from other places.

  3. Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon
    July 28, 2007 | 12:30 AM

    Hi Cody and Matt,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree with your comments re: best practices.

    My attitude at the moment though is that it depends where you start. For example, suppose a growing company has has been highly entrepreneurial, but with growth needs processes in place. A cultural shift needs to take place both in the company and in the mindset of the directors/owners.

    For companies such as this that are coming from behind and want to catch up with (and ultimately overtake) others, my view is that best practices van be an extremely useful tool to get to the point where the company is in the main ballpark with the other players.

    To win in that ballpark, of course, requires something extra, and this 'thinking differently' is of course what this blog is about.

    So basically what I'm saying is that if you're *with* the pack and want to get ahead, or you are ahead and want to stay there, then 'best practices' may not get/keep you there. But if you're behind the pack and want to catch up, then I think best practices can be a great tool.

    The other point I'd like to make is that if you follow the Benchmarking methodology as developed by APQC, what it really amounts to at the end of the day is knowledge sharing between companies. As they open up to each other to compare practices, it allows a 2-way knowledge transfer, which is stimulating to development right now for both companies. The companies get benefits and move ahead right now.

    So, I think the question of the value of best practices / benchmarking is more complicated than Tom Peters represents it.