Off the Cuff

Leaders in the world of business share their thoughts on the way we work, spend and prepare for the future.

His bestselling 1982 book, "In Search of Excellence," changed the way a generation thought about business. On Wednesday, management guru Tom Peters launches a new series of instructional books, "Reinventing Work: The 50Lists." The Monitor's Sara Steindorf queried Mr. Peters about his latest thinking on personal success in a 'brand you' world.

Ninety-plus percent of our currently configured white-collar jobs are in jeopardy in the next 10 years.

"This business reconfiguration [a result of technology and globalization] will cause us to do as much reinvention on the white-collar world in a more compressed time frame as we've done in the blue-collar world in the past 60 to 100 years.

"Probably 75 percent of white-collar work is not brilliant intellectual creative stuff and is still to a significant degree 'paper pushing,' because we've never automated it ... and when we do, [workers] are going to need to become a heck of a lot more creative to survive in the job market.

"This book ["Brand You50"] is all about creating projects of distinction so that you will be a well-packaged, hot commodity in a decade from now.

The way to achieve [that] is to take the tasks you're assigned and reinvent them as a project that has some excitement and impact and meaning to you.

"This is nothing new ... self-help has been going on for 300 years in this country. But this book is particularly packaged [mainly] for the Gen-Xers in [the comic strip] Dilbert's world of cynicism.

"The average person working in the purchasing department, or human resources, or financing, or information technology doesn't have a kit bag of 'projects of distinction' they can sell to an employer. So my message to the ho-hum white-collar workers is that if you're thinking of staying in your comfort zone at work, and that your company will take care of you 40 years from now, you need to realize that these are uncomfortable times.

"And I think people ... laugh in the morning when they read Dilbert, but I still think that 80 to 90 percent of us we would like to do what I quote Sara Ann Friedman as saying: '... we may work because we must, but we still want to love, to feel pride, to respect ourselves for what we do, and make a difference.' "

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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