Friday's Growth

We’ve recently spoken about the value of management innovation, how innovation returns are normalizing and new opportunity areas are opening for many to practice management innovation. In such a vibrant and growing environment, what enduring legacy can a management innovator leave behind? What impact could they have on generations to follow?

To help answer this, we went to our Hall of Fame – recognizing management innovators, both individuals and organisations, who have made their mark on the world of work. Some are well-known, others less so (their organisations having been acquired by others). Whatever their path has been, they have all made an enduring mark on our world.

Sometimes to appreciate one’s contribution we must travel far from where such innovation originated. This form of ‘stretch’ we have found is needed to realise new innovations and has helped to explain why some organisations managed to transition successfully into new industries and market spaces. Time is one dimension along which we can experience stretch, and so we decided to look into the legacy of one of the world’s most prolific writers on management innovation – Peter F. Drucker, and what better way of doing so several decades after his discoveries became known. Are they relevant in today’s world? Have they left an enduring mark on our fast-changing world of work? Let’s dive in…

A management consultant, educator, and author, Peter Drucker was often described as the father of modern management. Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1909 (over a century ago) in a world which bears little resemblance to our own, his curiosity and passion for discovering how we humans organize our work, led to some of the major developments in management thinking in the late twentieth century, including privatization and decentralization; the rise of Japan to economic world power; the strategic importance of marketing (where I must admit, I developed a keen interest in his work); and the emergence of the information age. In 1959, (yes, back then…) Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker“, and later in his life considered knowledge-worker productivity to be the next frontier of management. That may explain why his work still rings true today and how his insights continue to seed a growing wave of innovations in how we manage, lead and organise, in increasingly uncertain times. He helped define the role of top managers as the keepers of an organisation’s vision and culture. He reminded us that sticking to the basics does matter, while we must also strive to reinvent the practice of management for a knowledge-driven world.

For me, Peter’s work was authentic (and particularly valuable) as he practiced empathy towards the many difficulties and demands faced by managers, across the globe. Well before Design Thinking became a commonly recognised term, he listened with great intent, to discover what made certain leaders incredibly effective in surmounting new challenges. This appreciation for and empathy towards managers and leaders, as humans, was at the core of the many innovations he helped develop.

His greatest legacy, I would think, is not the many answers he helped provide, but the enduring questions he raised, igniting our imagination and our quest for innovation. Some, as Margarent Weatley, have championed new ground and many have helped sustain his legacy through the Drucker Foundation. To all those who were inspired by his teachings, who drew courage from his clarity of thought and piercing words, we must give thanks, as the torch bearers of innovation, for decades to come. His greatest legacy, I would think, is, however, not the many answers he helped provide, but in the enduring questions he raised and help ignite our imagination and quest for innovation.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Saar Ben-Attar (A Connector Beyond Limits) 

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“The important and difficult job [of leaders] is never to find the right answer, it is to find the right question. For there are few things as useless - if not as dangerous - as the right answer to the wrong question."
Peter Drucker
The Practice of Management