Transition Management Consulting, Inc.

Still Searching for Excellence

by Jackie Eder-Van Hook
As the Internet overflows with information, the perennial question is whether the information is credible. As an association professional, I am curious about whether we sufficiently critical in reading materials in the modern business press? 

Take for example, the 2001 Fast Company article in which Tom Peters “confessed” about writing and research done for the 1982 book, In Search for Excellence. In the article, Peters admits to inventing some of data for the book. Peters admitted, “I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote ‘Search.’ Later he retracted some parts of his confession. 

Business professor Phil Rosenzweigh in his book "The Halo Effect" criticized the methodology so roundly that it made me feel embarrassed for Peters and Waterman. Rosenzweigh stated that it was not possible to identify traits that make a company perform well simply by studying companies that are already performing well by some measures, which is exactly what Peters and Waterman did. 

Despite the confession and criticisms, In Search for Excellence continues to be widely cited, and used in classrooms as well as boardrooms around the world. Online book bookseller, Amazon reports that it has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. 

I am curious if others were aware of this article? I wasn’t. Since 2001 have you had Peters as a speaker at your conference? Did anyone comment or object? How much of your thinking about leadership was shaped by this book or others or with similar methodological challenges, like Jim Collins’ Good to Great? 

You can check out the articles yourself. See “The Real Confessions of Tom Peters. Did “In Search of Excellence” fake data? A magazine suggests it did.” Business Week, December 3, 2001. “Tom Peters' True Confessions.” Fast Company You might check out Peters’ website as well. 
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