The Peter Drucker Way

Bruce Rosenstein‘s (@brucerosenstein) Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward-Focused Mindset distills “Drucker’s secrets about the future, in part by determining the approach he himself took.”

Peter Drucker, who was known as “the father of modern management,” had a way of thinking and writing about, and acting on, the future that was integral to his personal and professional life. He developed a profound central insight, that the future must be created day by day, person by person, rather than be left to chance or fate. I contend that his future-focused mindset was a key factor that led him to the highest possible professional achievements.

The book organizes Drucker’s core beliefs about the future (future-oriented mindset) into a framework with 10 main elements.

Drucker’s approach to the future allowed for changing times and different eras.

My study of Drucker’s teaching and writing about the future has led me to distill and delineate a number of elements, outlined below and throughout the book, that are crucial to understanding how he approached the future.

Whatever is happening in your personal or work situation can be matched against these elements. Not all of the elements will apply every time. But if you think of challenges that lie ahead in terms of these elements, I believe they will provide you with a guide to a brighter stronger future. . . . consider them for both individuals and organizations.

Think in terms of transformations when considering the Drucker future-oriented mindset. We are all aiming to make something different (and ideally better) of ourselves and our organizations, all the time. It is somehow easier to deal with constant, unrelenting change, risk, and uncertainty if transformation is one of our primary goals.

  • Mindset. The best way to approach the future is to keep it in mind as you go about your daily life and work.
  • Uncertainty. The future is essentially unknown/unknowable, uncertain, and unpredictable. You can’t assume that it will be similar to today.
  • Creation. Despite and because of its unpredictability, the future must be built and created.
  • Inevitability. Accept that a certain amount of the future has, as Drucker put it, “already happened,” because of the inevitable coming effects of events that have already taken place.
  • Present moment. The future unfolds based on and because of the thoughts, actions, choices, commitments, and decisions that you are making right now.
  • Change. People and organizations must accept this as normal and ongoing and should be organized for change, driven by change leaders/change agents.
  • Reflection. The observations you make about potential futures must include the implications for your personal life and work situation.
  • Remove/improve. The future is created by systematically stopping what is no longer useful, while continually improving what remains. This represents the combination of systematic abandonment and kaizen, which will be described further below.
  • Innovation/entrepreneurship. Innovations in services, products, and processes are major drivers of creating the future. Entrepreneurs create valuable new enterprises for the future gain of society.
  • Risk. Continual change means challenges from disruptive technologies and disruptive businesses, as well as nonstop turbulence. Risk is ever-present, but doing nothing is oft en not helpful, either.

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Mindset, Uncertainty, and Creation

Mindset. The best way to approach the future is to keep it in mind as you go about your daily life and work.

The Mindset principle emphasizes that we must “consciously, intentionally, and deliberately think about the future.” Drucker emphasized that we must embrace “the future that has already happened” (past) while “making the future happen” (future).

Uncertainty. The future is essentially unknown/unknowable, uncertain, and unpredictable. You can’t assume that it will be similar to today.

The Uncertainty principle emphasizes that “no one can completely know what the future will bring,” it is “futile to make predictions, especially to make important decision based on those predictions,” and it’s about “embracing change, uncertainty, and doubt, rather than running away from them.” Drucker emphasized that the future “‘cannot be known'” and “‘it will be different from what exists now and from what we expect.'”

Creation. Despite and because of its unpredictability, the future must be built and created.

The Creation principle emphasizes “developing, on an ongoing basis, what you want to accomplish and work toward and how you are going to get there;” that is, “not putting off decisions and actions so far into the future that they lose all meaning.” Drucker emphasized that we must “create knowing that life will be uncertain, that there will always be risks, and that change is the norm.” Drucker explains that “‘there comes a point when the small steps of exploitation result in a major, fundamental change, that is, in something that is genuinely new and different.'”

Mindset, Uncertainty, and Creation form a macro framework for being future-oriented. Embracing this perspective, which is easier said than done, anchors us in a continuum wherein we can confront a paradoxical reality.

Inevitability and Present Moment

Inevitability. Accept that a certain amount of the future has, as Drucker put it, “already happened,” because of the inevitable coming effects of events that have already taken place.

The Inevitability principle emphasizes that “‘it is pointless to try to predict the future,'” but “looking at what has already happened ‘that will have predictable effects’.” Drucker emphasized that while “the future could not be predicted,” “the tools to know what the future might look like” is “what is happening now and has happend in the recent past.”

Present Moment. The future unfolds based on and because of the thoughts, actions, choices, commitments, and decisions that you are making right now.

The Present Moment principle emphasizes “that what makes the future happen is what you do today, in the present moment.” Drucker emphasized: “The future requires decision — now. It imposes risk — now. It requires action — now.” That is, this is the “chain of events necessary for the future to unfold.”

Inevitability and Present Moment form a micro framework for appreciating the past. Embracing this perspective ensures we appreciate the past relative to the future.

Change, Reflection, Remove/Improve, Innovation/Entrepreneurship, and Risk

Change. People and organizations must accept this as normal and ongoing and should be organized for change, driven by change leaders/change agents.

This principle emphasizes that “change is the natural order of things” and “you not only have to get used to it, but have to learn to thrive on it.” Drucker emphasized: “‘The most effective way to manage change successfully is to create it.'” “‘One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it.'” Furthermore, “‘to survive and succeed, every organization will have to turn itself into a change agent'” and “‘the point of becoming a change agent is that it changes the mind-set of the entire organization. Instead of seeing change as a threat, its people will come to consider it an opportunity.'” Furthermore, Drucker describes “a change leader as someone who ‘sees change as opportunity'” and “the leader ‘looks for change, knows how to find the right changes and knows how to make them effective both outside the organization and inside it.'”

Change is the central concept of a micro framework for appreciating the future. Embracing this perspective ensures we have the opportunity to thrive on change.

Reflection. The observations you make about potential futures must include the implications for your personal life and work situation.

This principle emphasizes that “reflection and discussion takes place before any decisions are made or actions taken.” Drucker emphasized “responsibility for converting change into opportunity” in a “competent, purposeful way, realizing its potential impact on many people.”

Remove/improve. The future is created by systematically stopping what is no longer useful, while continually improving what remains. This represents the combination of systematic abandonment and kaizen, which will be described further below.

This principle emphasizes “planned/systematic/organized abandonment.” Drucker emphasizes: “If you were not already doing a particular activity, would you start doing it now, based on your experience and results? If not, are you going to keep doing it?”

Innovation/entrepreneurship. Innovations in services, products, and processes are major drivers of creating the future. Entrepreneurs create valuable new enterprises for the future gain of society.

This principle emphasizes “change, either incremental change or more radical change.” Drucker emphasized: “Innovators change how we look at the world, what we buy, and what we no longer buy” while “entrepreneurs sense or create needs that consumer never knew they had” and both “make the future a different, better place from their creations, products, or services.” Furthermore, Drucker explains that “grafting innovation on to a traditional enterprise does not work,” that is, “if you always do things in a traditional way and are set in your ways, it is hard to become an innovative, entrepreneurial company or organization.”

Risk. Continual change means challenges from disruptive technologies and disruptive businesses, as well as nonstop turbulence. Risk is ever-present, but doing nothing is oft en not helpful, either.

This principle emphasizes “that, although making the future was highly risky, not trying to make the future was equally or more risky.”

Reflection, Remove/Improve, Innovation/Entrepreneurship, and Risk organized around the central concept of Change elaborate a micro framework for appreciating the future. Embracing this perspective fosters thriving by transforming change into opportunity.

Peter Drucker’s Wisdom

Today, where so many so-called gurus and thought leaders are in the business of conjuring-up or making-up and peddling so-called leadership, culture, strategy, etc. (among other) “models” and rhetoric in the name of “their wisdom” while sometimes barely considering the present and quite often completely neglecting the past, then furthermore becoming one-trick ponies for their so-called wisdom, Bruce Rosenstein’s Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward-Focused Mindset is a very refreshing (can’t be emphasized enough!) reminder to such so-called gurus and thought leaders — in their quest to achieve greatness, be amazing, be excellent, achieve excellence or brilliancehack this-or-that, focus on “being” (or mindset) vs “doing” (or behavior) when you really need both, and whatever other such gimmickry that offers quick gratification but little lasting substance — of why Peter Drucker remains so influential.

Drucker was fond of saying that he looked out the window to see what was visible but unseen by many others.

Above all, the future must be created in a purposeful, meaningful way, by the actions people and organizations carry out each day.

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