Highlights from “The Excellence Dividend” by Tom Peters

Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath
5 min readDec 14, 2019


On the topic of “excellence as a core strategy”, the book does a great job of providing great insights and quite a bit of food for thought and practice.

As for presentation style, it uses a style almost identical to that of “The Little Big Things” by Tom Peters. While I would have preferred a bit more structure, this style made is an quick read. So, no major complains here :)

As for highlights, the layout of the book makes many text fragments highlights — literally :) Even so, I figured I’d capture some here; a few of these are quotes.

  1. Losers focus on removing roadblocks. Winners avoid roadblocks and focus on small wins that are positive demos of the new way.
  2. “Amateurs talk about strategy. Professionals talk about logistics.” — Omar Bradley
  3. Cut the bullshit. Can the excuses. Forget the fancy reports. Get moving now. Get the job done.
  4. Attitude and sense of responsibility matters way more than rank.
  5. “Execution is a SYSTEMATIC PROCESS of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability.” — Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
  6. When you talk all the time about execution, it’s likely to happen. When you don’t, it doesn’t
  7. “You do not merely ant to be the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.” — Jerry Garcia
  8. Asked for the single most important attribute that an ideal Honda applicant should have, Soichiro [Honda] noted that he preferred “people who had been in trouble.”… He believed genius arose from idiosyncrasy, “Nonconformity is essential to an artist or an inventor,” he told his workers.
  9. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” — Ted Rubin
  10. “You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend, or not.” — Isabel Allende
  11. “Carpenters bend wood; fletchers bend arrows; wise men fashion themselves.” — Buddha
  12. Whoever tries the most stuff wins, whoever screws the most stuff up wins.
  13. You can’t be a serious innovator unless and until you are ready, willing, and able to seriously play. “Serious play” is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation.
  14. Effective prototyping may be the most valuable core competence an innovative organization can hope to have.
  15. “Fail faster, succeed sooner.” — David Kelley
  16. “Success represents one percent of your work, which results only from the ninety-nine percent that is called failure” —Soichiro Honda
  17. “REWARD excellent failures. PUNISH mediocre successes.” — Phil Daniels
  18. “In business, you reward people for taking risks. When it doesn’t work out you promote them . — because they were willing to try new things. If people tell me they skied all day and never fell down, I tell them t o try a different mountain.” — Michael Bloomberg
  19. If you know here you’re heading, you’re not innovating.
  20. If things work out as planned, you weren’t chasing anything interesting.
  21. “You miss 100 percent if the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky
  22. “Expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things into what you’re doing.” — Steve Jobs
  23. Great design is “Wow”. Great design is utility. Great design is ease of use.
  24. JFK told us never to open our mouths in public if our goal was not to change the world.
  25. Your most “perfect” take is not the take you should keep. The one you should keep will have imperfections, but the imperfections will in fact best convey your passion, your love, your compelling need to tell the song’s story.
  26. “Avoid Busyness, free up your time, stay focused on what really matters” — Marcus Aurelius
  27. Meeting Rules:
    - Blast any personally directed criticisms with bazooka.
    - Make to-dos crisp, short, and unequivocal. [Amen to this a 100 times]
  28. “Effective executives do first things first … and they do ONE thing at a time” — Peter Drucker
  29. Spend 80 percent of your time finding and developing and nurturing allies of every size and shape in every nook and cranny — especially the out-of-the-way nooks and crannies — of the organization.
  30. “The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators.” — Paul Graham
  31. “Being aware of yourself and how you affect everyone around you is what distinguishes a superior leader.” — Edie Seashore
  32. “There are three things that are extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” — Ben Franklin
  33. “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” — William H. Whyte

The following are a list of quotes at the end of the book.

  1. “Let us create such a building that future generations will take us for lunatics.” — The church hierarchs at Seville
  2. “You can’t behave in a calm, rational manner. You’ve got to be out there on the lunatic fringe.” — Jack Welch
  3. “We are crazy. We should only do something when people say it is “crazy.” If people say something is “good,” it means someone else is already doing it.” — Hajime Mitarai
  4. “We all agree your theory is crazy. The question, which divides us, is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.” — Niels Bohr, to Wolfgang Pauli
  5. “There’s no use trying,” said Alice. “One cannot believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” — Lewis Carroll
  6. “To heal with “well behaved.” … Recently young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? “Keep her,” I replied … The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me.” — Anna Quindlen
  7. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out leaking oil, shouting, “Geronimo!”” — Bill Mckenna



Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath

Engineer / X-Academic / X-Researcher curious about software and computing.