Laurence J. Peter

Canadian educator

Laurence Johnston Peter (September 16, 1919January 12, 1990) was a Canadian educator and management theorist, best known for having formulated the Peter Principle.


Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.
  • In every organization there is a considerable accumulation of dead wood in the executive level.

The Peter Principle (1969)Edit

Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull (1969) The Peter Principle
  • In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
  • In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties. Do not be fooled by apparent exceptions.
    • p. 36 cited in: James Ike Schaap (2011)
  • Some Blockett-type employees actually believe that they have received a genuine promotion; others recognize the truth. But the main function of a pseudo-promotion is to deceive people outside the hierarchy. When this is achieved, the maneuver is counted a success.
    • p. 38: This phenomenon is called by Peter "percussive sublimation", or "being kicked upstairs".
  • Never stand when you can sit; never walk when you can ride; never Push when you can Pull.
    • p. 63
  • Incompetence plus incompetence equals incompetence
    • p. 107 (The Mathematics of Incompetence)

Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977)Edit

Laurence J. Peter (1977) Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time ISBN 0-688-03217-6
  • The only valid rule about the proper length of a statement is that it achieve its purpose effectively.
    • p. 10: Introduction
  • On second thought, maybe the atheist cannot find God, for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.
    • p. 44: Sometimes misattributed to Francis Thompson, whose quote "An atheist is a man who believes himself an accident" Peter was commenting on.
  • Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
    • p. 83
  • If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.
    • p. 125
  • The habitually punctual make all their mistakes right on time.
    • p. 181
  • Television has changed the American child from an irresistible force into an immovable object.
    • p. 324
  • If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?
    • p. 333
      • Frequently mistaken as quote by Albert Einstein.
  • Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.
    • p. 362
  • When you see yourself quoted in print and you're sorry you said it, it suddenly becomes a misquotation.
    • p. 418

Peter's Almanac (1982)Edit

Laurence J. Peter (1977) Peter's Almanac ISBN 9780688016128
  • Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.
    • Entry for September 24; as quoted in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1993), ed. Suzy Platt, Library of Congress, ISBN 0880297689, p. 78

About Laurence J. PeterEdit

  • Dr. Peter effectively destroys examples of seeming exceptions and is rather convincing that his principle is ubiquitous.
    • Lawrence Lipsitz, Editor (1973) The Process of Innovation in Education. p. 26

External linksEdit

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