Global Crisis/Innovation Blog

Drucker at 100

By Shlomo Maital

 Peter Drucker

 On Saturday (Nov. 19) we mark the 102th anniversary of the birth of Peter Drucker, the scholar who more than any other management expert defined the nature of the discipline of running businesses.  In over three dozen books (the last published just three years before his death, in 2002), Drucker taught students of management the essentials of building organizations, with integrity, respect, and vision.  

   Drucker was a visionary, yet insisted, “I never predict; I just look out the window and see what’s visible but not yet seen,” he told Forbes magazine.  He was the first to understand tht the industrial revolution is over, and the innovation / knowledge revolution has begun. In his 1968 book The Age of Discontinuity, he challenged managers to boost the productivity of knowledge work, to create a surge in productivity like that the industrial revolution created.  

   He foresaw the angst of the 2007-11 global crisis.  In an interview given nearly 25 years ago, he said, “in the next economic downturn, there will be an outbreak of bitterness and contempt for the super-corporate chieftains who pay themselves millions.”  Drucker hated the way CEO’s overpaid themselves. 

   Drucker fled his native Austria because of the rise of the Nazis.  This strongly influenced him, and his conviction that good management is essential not only for the success of companies, but also for the economic and political stability of the community and the nation.  

    According to author Richard Straub, Drucker called management a “social technology” (would that it was!) and called himself a “social ecologist”, one who watches the man-made environment of society.  Straub notes that in a 2008 Gallup Poll on honesty and ethics, only 12 per cent of respondents felt business executives had high/very high integrity – an all-time low.  And in economist Richard Layard’s study of happiness, among the people employees wanted to interact with, the ‘boss’ (CEO) came dead last.  Drucker would have been deeply distressed to see how bad management has ruined the lives of many in America, Europe and elsewhere, in the current global crisis.  

   My favorite Drucker story is how he consulted to Starbucks – by rising at 4 a.m. and going out with a delivery truck, to bring supplies to one of the outlets.  First, Drucker made sure he understood the business, at the coal face, long before he ever dared to offer advice.  Take heed, consultants.  Get out of your office, like Drucker, and get down and dirty in the mines.