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|Tom Peters III|
November 7, 1942 |
Peters was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He went to Severn School a private, preparatory high school, graduating in 1960. Peters then attended Cornell University, receiving a bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1964, and a master's degree in 1966.
He returned to academia in 1970 to study business at Stanford Business School[self-published source] receiving an M.B.A. followed by a PhD in Organization Behavior at the Stanford business school in 1977. The title of his dissertation was "Patterns of Winning and Losing: Effects on Approach and Avoidance by Friends and Enemies." Karl Weick credited Peters' dissertation with giving him the idea for his 1984 article: "Small wins: Redefining the scale of social problems." 
While at Stanford, Peters was influenced by Jim G. March, Herbert Simon (both at Stanford), and Karl Weick (at the University of Michigan). Later, he noted that he was influenced by Douglas McGregor and Einar Thorsrud.
In 2004, he also received an honorary doctorate from the State University of Management in Moscow.
From 1966 to 1970, he served in the United States Navy, making two deployments to Vietnam as a Navy Seabee, then later working in the Pentagon. From 1973 to 1974, he worked in the White House as a senior drug-abuse advisor, during the Nixon administration. Peters has acknowledged the influence of military strategist Colonel John Boyd on his later writing.
From 1974 to 1981, Peters worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, becoming a partner and Organization Effectiveness practice leader in 1979. In 1981, he left McKinsey to become an independent consultant.
In 1990, Peters was referred to in a British Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) publication as one of the world's Quality Gurus.
The publication of the popular business book In Search of Excellence in 1982 marked a turning point in Peters' career.
Peters states that directly after graduating with a PhD from Stanford in 1977, and returning to McKinsey, the new managing director, Ron Daniel, handed him a "fascinating assignment."[self-published source] Motivated by the new ideas coming from Bruce Henderson's Boston Consulting Group, Daniel noted that businesses often failed to effectively implement new strategies, so Peters "was asked to look at 'organization effectiveness' and 'implementation issues' in an inconsequential offshoot project nested in McKinsey's rather offbeat San Francisco office."[self-published source]
In Search of Excellence was published in 1982. It became a bestseller, gaining exposure in the United States at a national level when a series of television specials based on the book and hosted by Peters appeared on PBS. The primary ideas espoused solving business problems with as little business-process overhead as possible, and empowering decision-makers at multiple levels of a company.
The December 2001 issue of Fast Company quoted Peters admitting that he had falsified the underlying data for In Search of Excellence. He is quoted as saying, " This is pretty small beer, but for what it's worth, okay, I confess: We faked the data. A lot of people suggested it at the time."
In an odd turn of events, however, he later insisted that this was untrue, and that he was the victim of an "aggressive headline."
Peters's latest book is The Little Big Things, released in March 2010.
Peters currently lives in West Tinmouth, Vermont with his wife Susan Sargent, and continues to write and speak about personal and business empowerment and problem-solving methodologies. His namesake company is based in the UK.