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Tom Peters on social CEOs, perpetual curiosity and Twitter

Business guru Tom Peters says social media is fun, engaging and fundamental to success for senior executives

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At the World Business Forum recently held in Sydney, septuagenarian Tom Peters shared insights into why leaders need to embrace new communications platforms, and actively remove themselves from their splendid isolation.

After more than 40 years working with leaders from the world’s largest companies, Peters says executives need to use every mechanism possible to keep lines of communication open, and maintain their curiosity if they are to remain competitive in a globalised business environment.

The customer is now 100 per cent in charge of communication with the company and the marketing department is not – pure and simple.

Telstra IN:SIGHT: Tom Peters on social CEOs. perpetual curiosity and Twitter


The customer is now 100 per cent in charge of communication with the company and the marketing department is not – pure and simple. And your image and the response is being shaped on various bits of social media.

Unless you’re playing the game you have no idea what the – you know, it’s not the sort of thing where the social media guy ought to bring the CEO a summary report. It’s just not the way it works. You have to feel the tempo. You have to feel the pace. You’ve got to understand, you know, what’s going on.

I mean the difficulty which is, you know, when you’re looking at it maybe from a strategic standpoint, is a lot of isolated very senior people really don’t know how to be human beings anymore and that’s a little bit scary.

Social media is fun. Being in touch, it’s a joy. You are literally engaged 24/7 or whatever fraction thereof with the entire world and getting feedback of a sort that – that I – I mean I’m not the CEO of a 20 or 200,000 person company – the feedback I’m getting is so much more wonderful than it has been in the past.

All sorts of stuff is coming through Twitter. Social media is lovely, great, fun, fascinating and scarier than hell.

It takes 20 years to establish a reputation and five minutes to lose it and I think that the people who are running companies need to be intimately aware of that and really understand it – because I think there’s actually not much exaggeration in that. I’m not sure you could, you know, put an IBM out of business in five minutes but you can do an incredible amount of damage to even giant firms when something goes viral that’s – that’s unattractive.

I think organisations can really express a perpetual curiosity. And again I think that particularly in the executive suites, it may be there at some level but I think it gets lost – I think it gets lost over time and the problem with a giant company with rare exceptions like the example of Howard Schultz at Starbucks that I was giving, is the men and women, but men even more, get more and more and more isolated and the worst part of it is they don’t know it.

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