I felt embarrassed about reading Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence after reading his other more recent books. Somehow, I felt compelled to make excuse like, well, good books often have valid points even after the fad pass away.
After starting to read it, I was shocked to find out that this book means more to me now than any other books I read by Tom Peters. That’s saying a lot, since I do hold his Circle of Innovation, Brand You 50, Proffesional Service Firm 50, The Project 50 in very high regard.
All the things I have clumsily been trying to express in my reports and in my entries at this site seem really poor attempt to things that are so logically and clearly explained in In Search of Excellence. This is one of the few books written by consultants that I don’t huff at, since it doesn’t just list the effects, it attempts to explain the cause, and most of the time succeeds. I am now in the similar state as I was in some years back, when I was reading the books about complexity. Every few pages, there is deep insignt I admire and want to pause, so I am making a very slow progress in reading.
I am perhaps quarter of the way through the book, but when I read the section called “The Rational Model”, it felt like high voltage shock went through me. Reading some of the paragraphs, it dawned on me that paragraphs are interchangeable in explanation about science, business, or … life in general.
Robert Merton, a respected historian of science, describes the typical paper:
[There is a] rockbound difference between scientific work as it appears in print and the actual course of inquiry… The differences is a little like that between textbooks of scientific method and the ways in which scientists actually think, feel, and go about their work. The books on methods present ideal patterns, but these tidy, normative patterns … do not reproduce the typically untidy, opportunistic adaptations that scientists really make. The scientific papers presents an immaculate appearance which reproduces little or nothing of the intuitive leaps, false starts, mistakes, loose ends, and happy accidents that actually cluttered up the inquiry.
Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel laurate in immunology, flatly declares, “It is no use looking to scientific ‘papers,’ for they do not merely conceal but actively misrepresent the reasoning which goes into the work they describe.
We have observed few, if any bold new company directions that have come from goal precision or rational analysis.
When I say how these are applicable in business, it was the thought of sheer number of books on business in the market now. When I say how these are applicable in a person’s way of living, I am thinking of falling in love with someone, making friends, raising children. Movies, TV shows, books, comic books, magazine articles. Majority of what happens in them do not happen in real life.
So how do you learn to differentiate the “real” to the rational model? As Tom Peters says in the book, through experience, and experience only. I am not THAT old yet, but I have enough experiences in my life that I could say, at least that’s the way it works with me.