The Circle of Innovation: You Can’t Shrink Your Way to Greatness by Tom Peters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Had this book on tape and listened to it many times back in the early noughties. I was writing a blog post about “The Agile Heart” (http://goo.gl/aBCae) and quoted from it, so I got a second-hand copy from Amazon to verify the quote, my tape player having gone the way of all flesh a while ago. Still need to change the quote, but there you go.
Thing is, even now, nearly 15 years after it was first published, it’s a gem. The style is designed to look like his presentations, with a slide-like set of images setting up a proposition and then some discussion about the ideas. I’ve also been reading Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? and they cover a lot of similar ground. Peters’ take is more based on subverting the traditional workplace, “brand you”, “making everything a project”, “making where you work into a company in its own right”. Godin talks about the kinds of behaviour and attitude you need to make what Peters talks about become a reality. The two books complement each other. I think Linchpin is an essential read for anyone who cares about where we are today, but Peters’ book gives some historical context.
The subtitle you can’t shrink your way to greatness is a polemic with the late 90’s obsession with the bottom line: how big corporations were doing a slash and burn on their workforce and their working conditions to drive profit up. But if you race to the bottom you end up competing with people who are much poorer than you are and will do the same low-value work for less in a different country. You lose, the whole enterprise loses, and that’s it. This is also the theme of Linchpin. Two recessions later we are still learning the same lessons, funny that. Those lessons being that creativity and what Peters terms “emotional labour” (as in giving it some heart and caring about it) will keep you fed, but charging to the bottom won’t.
Both authors say that if you’re stuck somewhere you can’t do “emotional labour” or become a Linchpin – move on. Good advice.