The one-sentence summary

It’s the soft things that matter, and they are very hard to do.


  • This is not a book with a cohesive theme in the traditional sense – it contains 163 ways to pursue excellence that were originally a series of blogs
  • It’s the soft things that matter, and they are very hard to do
  • Hundreds of small acts of humanity add up to big improvements in operational effectiveness
  • Behavioural economics tallies with irrationality, and that often means dramatic overreaction to some tiny thing, or under reaction to a big thing
  • The characteristic that can help us when dealing with random events (Black Swans) is resilience, usually demonstrated by people with inner calm, high self-knowledge and a sense of humour
  • Big change really can be achieved in a short space of time – it will take precisely as long as you think it will
  • Big plans don’t work – small steps get things done
  • Planners announce good intentions but don’t motivate anyone to carry them out. Searchers find things that work and build on them
  • Serious play beats serious planning – all practical ideas evolve from prototypes


  • Seth Godin says that if you can’t describe your position in eight words or less, you don’t have a position. Peters call this an RPOV (Remarkable Point Of View). All businesses, and people, should have one
  • Kindness is free, so deploy it more often
  • To Don’t lists are often more important than To Do lists – over half of what we do is unnecessary
  • Leaders should practice Servant Leadership: what did I specifically do today to be of service to my people?
  • Staff are a more important audience than the customer – if they are not happy and motivated, then the customer won’t be either, so it starts on the inside
  • Apology is one of the most powerful tools at anyone’s disposal
  • Don’t learn from your failures – look for things that went right and build on them


  • The book is riddled with exclamation marks (over 60 on the inside cover and contents pages alone), which will prove irritating to those who favour a more sedate approach
  • There is a lot of repetition to the point where it feels there is a lot less in it than the large format suggests. It could probably be edited down to less than half the size