I become aware of Peter Drucker quite late in life. For the most part of the first half of my entrepreneurial life, management came by walking around and doing the necessary firefighting to prevent things going out of control. When I started reading Druckers writings for the first time somewhere around 2000-1, I was fascinated by both their simplicity and depth. Since then, Ive tried to read and imbibe the spirit of what Drucker has written. The first principles thinking that Drucker brings seems so obvious in hindsight. Just like it required an Isaac Newton to discover the laws of mechanics, it needed a Peter Drucker to do the same for management.)
In the wake of Druckers death recently, most business publications have discussed his life and writings in great detail. In this weeks Tech Talk, I have attempted to compile together what theyve had to say along with excerpts of Druckers writings.
Steve Forbes wrote in a tribute in the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Drucker’s genius for extraordinarily farsighted insights came from a combination of intense curiosity, right principles and deep understanding of the perfections and imperfections of human nature. He never went stale intellectually, which is why business journalists, executives, entrepreneurs, leaders of nonprofit institutions, students and the occasionally wise politician eagerly sought to pick his brains right up to the time he died.
What helped make Mr. Drucker so insightful was a profound understanding of economics, an understanding that still eludes most economists today. Not for him was the notion of “macroeconomics,” of seeing the economy as something of a machine that can achieve steady, stable growth. To him, traditional economic notions of “equilibrium” or Keynesian ideas of “aggregate demand” were nonsense. Innovation, constant change, and turmoil were the true constants of a progressing economy.
Geoffrey Colvin wrote in Fortune:
Drucker simply didnt care about the conventional view on any management topic, since he had thought them all through and knew where he stood. Yet I was still surprised by the vehemence with which he disdained the modern vogue for exalting leadership, as distinct from paltry old management. It infuriated him, though he was too polite to say so unless you asked him about it, which I did. His reasoning was extremely simple: The three greatest leaders of the 20th century were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. If thats leadership, I want no part of it.
There were many things Drucker wanted no part of. Big universities, for instance. He scorned them all to remain at tiny Claremont Collegepayback, perhaps, for the scorn theyd heaped on him early in his career. Economists dismissed his work as cheap sociology. Sociologists had no use for business. And Drucker was dismissive of them all. No economists were interested in organizations, he explained in a 2001 interview with my colleague, Jerry Useem. The field was based on the asinine assumption that organizations act like individuals. They dont. Here, Drucker had sensed a huge opportunity. Like any great entrepreneursomebody who creates something new, as he once defined the termhe was raiding these older disciplines to create one that didnt yet exist. Physics sprang from Newton, economics from Adam Smith. And Peter Drucker became the undisputed father of managementthe discipline devoted to the study of organizations.