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The book In Search of Excellence was written by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in the 80s, with a long-lasting best-selling record that essentially made the book a classic in the business field. Keeping in mind the relevant business concepts and the potential factors that are crucial to the success of a business, I aim to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this book, therefore explore the impacts it has on both individual businesses and on the society as a whole. The authors proposed innovative ideas that redefined what was crucial to achieving success in the field. After closely examining various companies that paved their ways to huge success, Peters and Waterman specifically pointed out eight themes that could lead a business to excellence. In the following paragraphs, I will discuss those central themes that the authors brought forward in the book and analyze their intentions.
The phenomenon that gave the authors their major inspiration to the themes was the unique management methods of Japanese companies. In their early years as college students, the authors came up with the foundations of what are truly important to a business after observing the management styles of Japanese companies and conducting a model based on McKinsey’s 7-S Framework: structure, strategy, systems, style of management, skills, staff, and shared values. The first theme, also the first chapter of the book, is therefore a bias for action. According to Peters and Waterman, determinism and the ability to act upon his or her decisions is undoubtedly one of the most important traits for a successful entrepreneur. Although plenty of people have had ideas that might lead off a great path, only a small portion of them actually have the courage and ambition to walk down that path and take the responsibilities, along with the potential risks. Launching something brand new and getting out of one’s comfort zone are always intimidating and challenging, however, it is also the only way to achieve success. Maintaining great work ethics and keeping up the energy along the way give a future entrepreneur the stance to overcome future difficulties that he or she encounters.
Although determinism is a crucial factor to the success of a business, the authors place equal value on the importance of people. As emphasized in the book, the importance of customers is another central theme viewed as essential by the authors. They consider customers as the best source a company can learn from, which also provides them a different perspective about their own products and helps them generate new ideas. Therefore, maintaining a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with customers not only provides insights to the mechanisms in the actual market, but also helps the entrepreneurs with introspecting their own businesses. The underlying implication behind this theme is the principle of market-driven strategies. In order to obtain a broader and more objective view of the market, the best way is to maintain a close relationship with the customers.
Nevertheless, the authors also put great value on autonomy in respect to encouraging a creative and innovative environment in the organization. This theme roots in the belief that rather than simply and blindly following the corporate rules, allowing room for innovation, even mistakes is better for the overall growth of a company. From the micro-perspective of an individual, autonomy leads to personal satisfaction, which directly yields stronger motivation. In the perspective of an entrepreneur who is striking to achieve success, autonomy leads to greater capacity and countless possibilities. Moreover, autonomy can also foster a sense of self-reliance, which has profound psychological implications that are crucial to the development of an entrepreneur. By pointing out and emphasizing this theme, Tom Peters, and Robert Waterman places undeniable value on the guiding aim of oneself, regardless of any external factors. The authors essentially believe that with an emphasized attention on autonomy in business education, future entrepreneurs will become more responsible and self-determined.
Another theme that is stressed by the authors is the hands-on and value-driven business philosophy. This is arguably the simplest yet most crucial principle to the operation of any business. This idea of value-driven represents a belief of prioritizing the company’s guideline over any other events or resources, which not only increases productivity, but also enhances motivation for individuals. Therefore, correctly placing value on a company’s objective becomes the primary focus. Furthermore, this process also requires wise management to strike for that objective. As an aspiring entrepreneur, one must bear in mind the mission and methods of achieving what the company truly places value on, and therefore generate a motivating yet profit-oriented objective. Regardless of circumstances, the driving force behind an individual or a corporation’s actions and decisions is the basis for any successful business.
The mechanism behind those themes is based on the fundamental business models and principles, which have profound influences on any future entrepreneurs or business executives. Therefore, the book In Search of Excellence not only provides a brand new viewpoint for the business field on conducting an effective business model, but also ground-breaking ideas that helped numerous companies and individuals to achieve their own success. The strength of the book is its relatable and supported business philosophies, which provided insights for both young adults who wish to start their own businesses and existing businesses that hope to obtain a new perspective of thinking. However, the book also has its weakness. One major criticism centers around the metrics that the author used to determine the successful businesses. Critics also point out the fact that the examination of already well-preforming companies cannot serve as the sole evidence of the effects of those success-determining traits. Therefore, to some extent, the book lacks solid cause-effect evidence that can prove the causal relationship of the traits mentioned in the book and the success achieved by those companies. In my eyes, despite the controversies on the validity of the traits mentioned in the book, the authors provided a thorough analysis and examination of what determines the excellence of any business. Therefore, I would recommend this book as a must-read for anyone interested in business or entrepreneurship since it changed my perspective of viewing seemingly simple business philosophies.