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The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue EXCELLENCE Hardcover – March 9, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Those who want to improve their business, whether a boss or an employee, will find great ideas in this compelling and very browsable book.” (Library Journal)

“If you truly believe ‘excellence’ is what Tom Peters is all about, then you will buy this book, read it, learn from it and go away confirmed in your belief. Tom’s 163 tips are validated through experience again and again.” (Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Leader in Me)

“The single best management book I’ve ever read.” (Warren Bennis)

From the Back Cover

#131 The Case of the Two-Cent Candy

Years ago, I wrote about a retail store in the Palo Alto environs—a good one, which had a box of two-cent candies at the checkout. I subsequently remember that "little" parting gesture of the two-cent candy as a symbol of all that is Excellent at that store. Dozens of people who have attended seminars of mine—from retailers to bankers to plumbing-supply-house owners—have come up to remind me, sometimes 15 or 20 years later, of "the two-cent candy story," and to tell me how it had a sizable impact on how they did business, metaphorically and in fact.

Well, the Two-Cent Candy Phenomenon has struck again—with oomph and in the most unlikely of places.

For years Singapore's "brand" has more or less been Southeast Asia's "place that works." Its legendary operational efficiency in all it does has attracted businesses of all sorts to set up shop there. But as "the rest" in the geographic neighborhood closed the efficiency gap, and China continued to rise-race-soar, Singapore decided a couple of years ago to "rebrand" itself as not only a place that works but also as an exciting, "with it" city. (I was a participant in an early rebranding conference that also featured the likes of the late Anita Roddick, Deepak Chopra, and Infosys founder and superman N. R. Narayana Murthy.)

Singapore's fabled operating efficiency starts, as indeed it should, at ports of entry—the airport being a prime example. From immigration to baggage claim to transportation downtown, the services are unmatched anywhere in the world for speed and efficiency.

Saga . . .

Immigration services in Thailand, three days before a trip to Singapore, were a pain. ("Memorable.") And entering Russia some months ago was hardly a walk in the park, either. To be sure, and especially after 9/11, entry to the United States has not been a process you'd mistake for arriving at Disneyland, nor marked by an attitude that shouted "Welcome, honored guest."

Singapore immigration services, on the other hand:

The entry form was a marvel of simplicity.

The lines were short, very short, with more than adequate staffing.

The process was simple and unobtrusive.


The immigration officer could have easily gotten work at Starbucks; she was all smiles and courtesy.




And . . . yes!

There was a little candy jar at each Immigration portal!

The "candy jar message" in a dozen ways:

"Welcome to Singapore, Tom!! We are absolutely beside ourselves with delight that you have decided to come here!"




Ask yourself . . . now:

What is my (personal, department, project, restaurant, law firm) "Two-Cent Candy"?

Does every part of the process of working with us/me include two-cent candies?

Do we, as a group, "think two-cent candies"?

Operationalizing: Make "two-centing it" part and parcel of "the way we do business around here." Don't go light on the so-called substance—but do remember that . . . perception is reality . . . and perception is shaped by two-cent candies as much as by that so-called hard substance.

Start: Have your staff collect "two-cent candy stories" for the next two weeks in their routine "life" transactions. Share those stories. Translate into "our world." And implement.

Repeat regularly.


(Recession or no recession—you can afford two cents.)

(In fact, it is a particularly Brilliant Idea for a recession—you doubtless don't maximize Two-Cent Opportunities. And what opportunities they are.)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; unk edition edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061894087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061894084
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stan Dubin on November 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been listening to Tom's "The Little Big Things" and reading along on the Kindle version. Tom likes to zero in on simple ideas that can have a powerful impact on the success of a business (small, medium or large). This is a really healthy approach to helping businesses succeed. Folks like to read, absorb and apply...not spend all kinds of time trying to understand graphs, analyses, and information presented all-too-often intended to impress than to assist. So Tom scores very big points throughout in getting us immediately useable information.

There is one item I strongly disagree with in the book. Tom says:

"I argue here and elsewhere that the *only* effective source of innovation is pissed-off people! Hence, bite your tongue and cherish such misfits!" (the word *only* was in italics presumably for emphasis)

I'm sure some points of innovation come from pissed-off people, and I imagine Tom has considerably more examples of this than I do. But I'm also sure superb innovation has come from those not pissed-off at all. This I've seen with my own eyeballs on quite a few occasions. And sometimes these pissed-off misfits are just that: pissed-off misfits with no innovation whatsoever in their space. Quite the contrary, some are involved with undoing innovation, creativity and productivity. So I'm not on the look-out for pissed-off misfits nor should you be. Be on the look-out for innovation in whatever form it presents itself. Then check it out, test it out and use it liberally when you see it gets the desired results.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've never seen so many font sizes, exclamation points and redundancy in one book. There is nothing new here, and what IS here is so mercilessly pounded on that you would have to be severely ADHD to get anything out of it. A typical paragraph: "Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate." (I wish I was exaggerating).

I made it to page 85 before swearing I would never read another Tom Peters book as long as I live. The thought of trying to make it through the remaining 453 pages made me want to pull my eyeballs out. The Little Big Things becomes the fourth book I've ever ordered from Amazon that I am returning, and the second this week. Must be a bad week for business books.

You're better off buying a used copy of The Search for Excellence, even though many of the companies featured in that book have been out of business so long that under-40 readers won't have ever heard of them.
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Format: Hardcover
As I started reading this book, I was disappointed. I didn't like the short, choppy parts. Nor did I like the multiple fonts. The book didn't seem to flow.

Then I thought back on Tom Peters' introduction. He says that this book is written in a blogging style and isn't meant to be read like a regular book. He also says that he doesn't expect all his items to resonate with the reader. He wishes us to pick up a few.

Halfway through the book, I `got it' and started enjoying the lists.

The mark of a true visionary author is if he:

**makes the reader stop and think
**gives practical and very doable advice.

Tom Peters succeeded with both of these.

Some of the "little big things" that I particularly enjoyed:

#36 - Call, don't email, 25-20 people in the next 5 days to thank them for all their help. Make a point to do this a few times a year.
#68 - Just say yes!
#115 - Ask and then ask again.

While there is nothing new or earth shattering in this book, it's a good read to help stimulate actionable ideas.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been in Tom Peters' camp for 20+ years, buying all of his books, visiting his website religiously, buying the books he recommend, downloading his youtube files, watching his DVD, and learning form him more than from anyone else. He is The Guru of Gurus. I have always looked forward to his books, I bought them all, I read them all. I bought more than 20 copies of Re-Imagine to give to friends.

This book is in the same vein as his previous books, which is always crunchy, fun to read, fresh, and enlighting. Most are his regular materials, packed into one book. The chapters are made for easier search: Crisis, Opportunity, Resilience, Connection, Attitude, Performance, Work, Initiative, Leadership, Networking, Talent, Innovation, Learning, Design, WOW, and so on........ A Huge 500+ pages of stuffs that will en-light and shine on your days. This is some sort of "reference book" that you can pick and read for 10 minutes or an hour or a whole weekend every now and then.

"Business Motivation" is what this is all about, It's the little BIG things THAT MATTER. One Chapter or even one "cut" is worth reading and thinking and considering (There are 163 ways to pursue Excellence, as the subtitle said). If you have ever downloaded Tom Peters' Powerpoint Master Files, you know this is it, the complete set, sorta His Legacy. This is not a "One Big Idea" that change the world, but a bunch of small things that will make us all better business persons.

For the new readers who have never known Tom, this is a huge book with 163 ideas, jammed into one, that will last forever. Most will love it, some will hate it. Tom always thinks that being loved and being hated is much better than being ignored! (He matters.) Give it a try, you might get hooked.
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