“It’s really great to be lucky” Tom Peters on Hewlett-Packard – well, Tom was right about HP being REALLY lucky, but still, I did OK…

The Wisdom Of Tom

Tom Peters has been so criticized and parodied that we may well be at risk for an outbreak of a re-revisionist movement that will not only promote his complete works as a way to think about business but reveal it to be a secretly coded manuscript that, decrypted, details the conspiracy undertaken by the Odd Fellows Lodge, the City Council of Joplin, Missouri, the companies formed from the sham dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust, and the Tri-PMLA1 to eradicate the evidence that Bill Gates and Tom Cruise are, in fact, the same person (when was the last time you saw them together?).

Regardless, I have long admired this Tom Peters quotation,2 which elegantly articulates my own core theory of business:

I first studied about Hewlett-Packard in 1979. I know its story in great detail. It went from being a technical company to a legendary success, a model for other companies. Its success was due to its wonderfully decentralized organization that later went through seven years of centralization followed by a period led by a renegade executive who lived out in the boondocks, and then another era headed by a former chairman who held onto a billion dollars’ worth of stock, kept his ear to the ground and parachuted back in to the company at exactly the right moment.

What can we learn from this?

Not a fucking thing, except it’s really great to be lucky.

 

As an additional case study, I offer the fact that, in accordance with the Law of Large Numbers, there have indeed been those shining moments in DrHGuy’s life when things have unaccountably – and certainly unexpectedly – gone right.

One such example, notable for its spectacularly serendipitous timing, took place on the occasion of DrHGuy’s (or, more accurately at that time, MedStudentHGuy’s) Internal Medicine final exam. While DrHGuy, it is important to note, was confident that he had passed the test by a comfortable margin, he was to discover that every one of the answers of which he was less than certain turned out, in fact, to be correct, resulting in a score so aberrantly high that the medical school faculty revised their previous (and absolutely appropriate) assessment of DrHGuy as a competent but less than outstanding performer in that discipline to an evaluation that was tinged with something akin to the adulation of the Magi for the just born Messiah. Happily for the future of healthcare and DrHGuy’s psychiatry career, sanity and logic returned shortly, albeit not before DrHGuy was awarded Honors for the course.

 

Note: Originally published Apr 2, 2006 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com.

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  1. The cabalistic alliance of the Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, Pittsburgh Medical Library Association, and Premier Livestock Auctions Ltd. []
  2. The quotation is from “Peters Provocations” by Kevin Kelly in Wired News. []