PEAK: A book review by Bob Morris

PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow
Chip Conley
Jossey-Bass (2007)

Note:  Today is June 28, 2011. Chip has just announced  the debut of www.peakorganizations.com, a site featuring new programs and resources based on his book PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.

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As Chip Conley explains in the Preface, “This book is about the miracle of human potential: employees living up to their full potential in the workplace, customers feeling the potential bliss associated with having their unrecognized needs met, and investors feeling fulfilled by seeing the potential of their capital leveraged.” I agree with him that all great leaders know how to tap into this “potential” and actualize it into reality.” Moreover, I also agree with Conley that great leadership can – and should – be found at all levels and in all areas of an organization.

So, what motivations do people need to achieve peak performance, especially in collaboration with others? In this volume, Conley responds to that question, suggesting that there are many valuable lessons to be learned from Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” For present purposes, it can be abbreviated as follows: Survival, Security, and Self-Actualization. Conley offers a step-by-step process to build a great company by fulfilling these three separate but interdependent needs.

Whereas a mountain has a finite height, Maslow’s pyramid does not. No individual and no organization can ever become fully actualized. There will always be room for improvement because achieving one goal creates opportunities to achieve others. Revealingly, Conley describes himself as a Himalayan Sherpa who guides his reader to up to the summits of Nepal or Tibet. What he implies is that his role has another, in my view more important function: To guide his readers to insights that will enable her or him to chart a proper course when embarked on a never-ending journey from one peak performance to the next.

After I read this book the first time,  I reflected on this somewhat unexpected but certainly brilliant metaphor.  Of much greater interest and significance to me — both then and now — is the correlation Conley suggests between his relationship with each reader and what he expects the relationship to be between his associates and  each guest. He and Danny Meyer are among the few who fully understand the spiritual dimensions of hospitality.

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