One of the world’s great business minds graduated last week. With honors! It is with great respect and even awe that we acknowledge the passing of revered business authority Peter F. Drucker last Friday, November 12th, a few days shy of his 96th birthday.
With 39 books written over 75 years, Chairman Peter (as he was affectionately called) was, in our estimation, the most influential business thinker and writer of the 20th Century. He has influenced our thinking as well of the thinking of the most respected business authorities of our day including Jack Welch, Jim Collins, Stephen R. Covey, Ken Blanchard, Warren Bennis and countless others we are not personally aware of.
Early last year, in an interview with Forbes magazine, Mr. Drucker was asked if there was anything in his long career that he wished he had done but had not been able to do.
“Yes, quite a few things,” he said. “There are many books I could have written that are better than the ones I actually wrote. My best book would have been “Managing Ignorance,” and I’m very sorry I didn’t write it.” We wish he’d gotten to that one too.
Mr. Drucker consulted business leaders and non-profit leaders well into his 90’s leaving the legacy of staying productive and contributing throughout one’s life. He strongly believed and taught that people were assets, not costs and thus shifted the thinking of several generations of business leaders. He extended pro-bono to non-profits, again modeling high ground behavior for other business leaders. He encouraged business leaders to give back to the community by developing a parallel career in non-profit organizations.
Chairman Peter’s words continue to echo through the halls:
“Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two – and only two – functions: Marketing and Innovation. Marketing and Innovation produce results. All the rest are costs.”
“The number one difference between a Nobel prize winner and others is not IQ or work ethic, but that they ask bigger questions”
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
“One either meets or one works.”
“The only things that evolve by themselves in an organization are disorder, friction and malperformance.”
“Stock option plans reward the executive for doing the wrong thing. Instead of asking, ‘Are we making the right decision?’ he asks, ‘How did we close today?’ It is encouragement to loot the corporation.”
Jack Welch attributed a simple question by Drucker for one of Welch’s most profound insights. In Jack’s words, “Drucker said: ‘If you weren’t already in this business, would you enter it today? And if not, what are you going to do about it? ‘Simple, right? But incredibly powerful’.”
Drucker’s simple question ultimately led to Welch’s operating maxim that if a GE unit could not be No. 1 or No. 2 in its field, it should be sold.
“Peter could look around corners,” philanthropist Eli Broad, who knew Drucker for 30 years, told the LA Times, Friday. “He would say things that seemed rather simple but in fact were very profound. He saw the future.”
In the foreword to one of Drucker’s last books Jim Collins wrote: “Drucker liked to tell the story of a Greek sculptor from 500 BC who was commissioned by the city of Athens to construct a set of statues to ring the top of a building. The sculptor toiled for months longer than expected, making the backs of the statues as beautiful as the fronts. The city commissioners, angered by this extra work, asked: ‘Why did you make the backs of the statues as beautiful as the front? No one will ever see the backs!’ ‘Ah but the Gods can see them,’ replied the sculptor.”
In essence this brief story lends insight into how Peter chose to live his life. He left this world a better place than he found it and took with him the only thing that accompanies us out of this life, his indomitable spirit and a significantly informed intelligence and experience.
We are confident Peter Drucker will continue his influence beyond this world. It’s certain his influence will continue to touch ours. Bravo Peter. Way to finish strong!
“Aude aliquid dignum” (16th century Latin: “Dare something worthy”)