If you are a student of the business gurus at all you have no doubt read the seminal work by Tom Peters entitled "In Search of Excellence". I read it with great interest when it first came out. The fundamental points that Tom lays out in that book are timeless and certainly are appropriate in today's business climate. After reading that book, I have been fascinated by examples of those that seem to personify the principles of excellence ever since. I think that it is instructive to look at people and companies that seem to embody excellence so that we can learn from them. The following is a list of what I consider to be excellent people and companies in the geospatial industry:
Overall Excellence in Business
I have been amazed and inspired by the vision and leadership that Jack Dangermond provides to his company and to the industry in general for a long time. Jack has a personal and global vision for planetary stewardship and pursues that vision with remarkable energy and persistence. He has attracted a following of thousands of amazingly talented and dedicated employees to help move the vision forward and ESRI software is the unquestioned flagship of the industry. The breadth and depth of the ESRI software and solutions are industry-leading in their own right, but it is Jack's leadership and the culture that he has built at ESRI that really sets him apart.
What a great company Safe Software is. Dale and Don have created an outstanding organization that really exemplifies what a great company can be. Their products are rock solid, and their people are outstanding, top to bottom. The customer-focused culture where everyone in the company has a genuine interest in the problems of their customers flows directly from Dale and Don. They have a genius for attracting and retaining top-notch talent (being headquartered in Vancouver probably doesn't hurt in this regard), and continually delivering great products.
Excellence in GeoSpatial blogging
I monitor about 60 different GeoBlogs on a daily basis. Of all these, James' blog posts are consistently the most enjoyable and useful. James has a great talent for blending thoughtful perspective, useful advice, and a great sense of humor into his posts. I can't imagine how he gets anything else done in a day given all the hours he must spending combing U-Tube for just the right videos, but the end result is always useful and enjoyable.
I appreciate Matt for his consistent volume of high-quality posts about GIS and Science. Matt combs the web each day for interesting posts about how GIS is being used to solve challenging scientific problems. Matt's blog is a great way to broaden my understanding of how and where GIS is being used by really smart and interesting people.
Matt Ball and Jeff Thurston have staked out an interesting position in the online media market. Their interests align very well with my own in that they have a global perspective on issues of energy management, human environmental impact, and urbanization. Their content is thoughtful and provocative. Great reading.
Excellence in Visualization
The guys at Universal Mind have an amazing gift for building powerful and intuitive visualizations of information through interactive web applications. I do not know them well enough to know whether they draw inspiration from Edwin Tuffte, but to my eye they are drinking from the same creative well spring.
GIS has been late to the 3D party. For some reason, ESRI has been slow to recognize how incredibly important it is for human beings to be able to visualize design alternatives in 3D. The point has not been lost on the folks from GeoWeb 3D. They have taken it as their own mission to enable users to visualize their GIS worlds in ways that are visually compelling and are also very fast. By unleashing the power of the graphics card, GeoWeb 3D provides an environment for visualization that seems to be a cross between 3D Studio Max and a video game. Unfortunately they only support Nvidia cards currently which means that I can't run their software on my current laptop, but hopefully they will move beyond this limitation in the future.
Excellence in Software Thought Leadership
Masour has been a part of the ESRI family for many years. Fortunately for us, he is based in the ESRI Danvers regional office so I get to spend time with him occasionally. I look to Mansour for timeless programming insight - "design your software in small modules. Each module does only one small thing, but does it very very well." I also look to Mansour to gain insight into trends and what to expect from the major software vendors in the next two to five years. Mansour has been a software visionary for a long time. He was involved in fielding some of the first versions of ESRI ArcSDE. He was on the team that brought us ArcIMS. Later, he was involved in the development of ArcWeb Services and now the ESRI FLEX Application Development Framework. Beyond the fact that he is one of the brightest guys I have ever known and has incredibly high energy, he is also very giving of his time and always willing to share his insight to help others along. One of my all-time favorite people on the planet.