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Don’t settle, aim high, says Tom Peters

Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi enjoy strong reputations in a host of disciplines ranging from economic development to education to healthcare. But there’s always an opportunity to expand that commitment to the next level via creativity and imagination, consultant and best-selling author Tom Peters told a group of business and community leaders in Tupelo last week at the HealthWorks! corporate capital campaign kick off.

“If we’re doing a lot right in the region, then we need to look beyond the region,” Peters said. “We need to look at what’s the bigger dream and what’s possible here.”

Peters, who co-wrote the highly successful “In Search of Excellence” with Robert Waterman 25 years ago, encouraged area leaders to aim high and “find the steeper mountain.” Using HealthWorks! — an interactive children’s health education center that is expected to open next year in Tupelo’s Gloster Creek Village — as an example, Peters urged audience members to develop HealthWorks! to its fullest potential so that its impact will transcend its geographic borders. Spearheaded by the Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi, HealthWorks! is based on an initiative created by Memorial Health System in South Bend, Ind. HealthWorks! will be geared toward children ages kindergarten through eighth grade with a two-fold purpose: to enhance the health and science curricula for area schools and to effect lifelong change for healthier lifestyles among area children.

In discussing healthcare issues such as childhood obesity, which Peters deems a serious problem facing the nation, the consultant urged attendees to go beyond comparisons to neighboring communities or the state as a whole.

“Why not look at global leadership?” Peters said, noting how innovative leaders can redefine key problems through their actions.

Throughout his presentation and during media interviews afterward, Peters shared his thoughts on the power of entrepreneurial thinking and the ability to tap into the creativity and enthusiasm of an organization’s people. While all types of jobs are important, and larger corporations are anchors in various regions, Peters noted that “the reality is that we live in a service economy,” and he stated that small businesses are essential components of the economic mix, even though they don’t always garner a great deal of attention.

Peters also asserted that sales is a component of everyone’s job, and that successful organizations possess the ability to engage people so they are motivated and excited about their work.

Recognizing the value of human talent, Peters said that educational systems should be increasingly focused on nurturing creativity. Reiterating that point, he observed that “anything you can solve with a standardized test, a computer can do better.”

In an update to audience members on the HealthWorks! campaign, BancorpSouth chief executive officer Aubrey Patterson stated that around $4.25 million of the needed $6 million has been raised to date. This, according to Patterson, includes approximately $1.3 million from corporations and businesses. Approximately $600,000 has been raised by physicians.

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