Re-Imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age
by Tom Peters
I’d better come clean on this one. I’ve reviewed 140 books for our web site now and this one has probably been the most challenging for me. I must admit I’ve been mesmerized by the words of Tom Peters and his unique “take” on business, management, leadership and innovation since first reading his renowned In Search of Excellence 24 years ago. I’m proud to say I have his entire “works” in my personal library and, better yet, have actually read every one of them. I’ve always admired the exuberance, enthusiasm, and fervor Tom shares with anyone and everyone who will listen to the issues so dear to his heart. I have yet to read one of his books, this one included, that didn’t provide me with inspiration, extraordinary insight, many laughs, a few “ah-hahs,” and a revitalized dedication to my personal goal of making a difference. I’ve also disagreed with many things he has championed.
Now let’s examine his latest and most ambitious offering, Re-imagine! I’m going to use a different approach to this one by separating my positive observations from my negative commentary. Prior to sharing my review of the content, let’s examine the physical book itself. You’ve got to admit that Tom walks his talk. He has always preached the importance of “re-invention,” risk-taking, and innovation. He tackled them all in creating his latest best seller.
It’s larger than most books at 7″ x 9″ and contains 352 pages, each possessing the potential to blind your eyes, slap your face, shut your mouth, open your mind, sit you down, and force you to take a deep breath as you re-evaluate everything you ever believed to be true. However, that’s just potential. In his effort to “reinvent the business book,” Tom has pulled out all the stops. Some of you may find it stimulating and enjoyable while others may find the chaotic and unconventional design and layout nauseating at best.
This book’s design is indeed a departure from “traditional” business books. It doesn’t look like any management book you’ve seen in the past. Every inch of every page is filled with vivid photos, bold colors (especially Peters’ trademark red), icons and text-laden sidebars. Word size, color and even typeface refuse to stay stable within a single sentence. Exclamations everywhere!!! CAPITALIZED TEXT. Red text and red backgrounds hit you in the face on most every page. Pictures, pictures and more pictures. There are pictures of products, corporate logos, Hollywood stars, politicians, sports figures, soldiers, and countless famous people from every walk of life. Some readers may find it annoying that pictures of Tom himself can be found by the dozens throughout the book—everything from a full-page photo on the cover to every possible cheesy pose you can imagine in every chapter! And before each chapter a page is wasted on a BIG EXCLAMATION MARK!
Now let’s discuss the pros and cons of the content.
On a positive note …
This book is saturated with great pictures, quotes, facts, analogies, examples, reality, challenges and information. In fact, some people suggest you read only four to five pages at one sitting to avoid information overload and total exhaustion.
Tom kicks things off with an inspiring, even startling, introduction. He avoids his usual histrionics and fireworks starting slowly building his case quietly and firmly. It’s quite obvious that he’s creating a firm foundation that can handle the bomb bursts of his later frenzies. Momentum builds as Peters steadily presents his major theme: “We’re in a new business climate and we’d better make some big changes.”
As always, Tom does everything he can to move his readers to take action. You can find it on most every page. He doesn’t care if you agree or disagree with his philosophy. He simply wants you to take a stand, move to action, and make a difference. He feels our country needs many more voices on every front.
Tom admits to previous mistakes as he points out that being correct is not the issue. We need new ideas, new practices, new ways of working before hell arrives in the proverbial hand basket—and the more ideas we can try, the better. We all need to enjoy some excellent failures.
As always, he shares an abundance of his stream-of-consciousness phrases and proves once again that he has a profound understanding of our challenging business climate. He’s known for his bombastic and passionate ideas and certainly won’t disappoint his readers in this best seller. Like him or not, Tom Peters is one of the most influential management gurus of recent times, and this book will contribute much to keeping his legend alive.
At the end of each chapter you’ll find a thought-provoking and very entertaining “Was/Is” comparison.
On a somewhat negative note …
I found that a great deal of the information Tom shares in Re-imagine! is not new. Much of what he says was regurgitated from one or several of his earlier works. This will be quite evident to anyone who has read any of his previous books.
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition. Isn’t that aggravating? I found a great deal of repetition within these covers. Many words, phrases, sentences, strategies repeated page after page, chapter after chapter. Repetition can be productive but only to a degree.
Tom seems to be promoting his new buzzword, “re-imagine,” in the hopes that it will catch on and become part of our business lingo. I don’t know how others may feel about it, but I can’t seem to come to grips with it. I wish him well but honestly feel this one will fall short.
I must admit that I was a bit surprised to find Tom taking a few shots at a few fellow authors. Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, seemed to be one of his favorite targets. I couldn’t decide whether it was truly a philosophy dispute or maybe a tinge of professional jealously. It just seemed out of character for the Tom Peters I’ve grown to know and admire over the years.
In summary, Tom’s focus is obviously on all things NEW. His chapters include New Context, New Technology, New Value, New Brand, New Markets, New Work, New People, and New Mandate. First-time readers of Tom’s material will find this book fascinating and will more than likely become true converts … anxiously awaiting his inevitable upcoming book. Those who have been long-time fans who have read Tom’s previous books may enjoy this offering but probably won’t consider it his best work.
Personally, I’m not sure if this one is as good as it is bad or as bad as it is good. Read it, decide for yourself and let me know what you think.
(This book review was originally published in 2005 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 14.)