Wading through the swamp: the radical power of ecosystems-as-processes
by David Hurst

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 11th Global Peter Drucker Forum

The respected management scholar, Donald Schön, began his 1987 book, The Education of the Reflective Practitioner, as follows: “In the varied topography of professional practice, there is a high, hard ground overlooking a swamp. On the high ground, management problems lend themselves to solution through the application of research-based theory and technique. In the swampy lowland, messy confusing problems defy technical solution. The irony of this situation is that the problems of the high ground tend to be relatively unimportant to individuals or society at large, however great their technical interest might be, while in the swamp lie the issues of greatest human concern. The practitioner must choose. Shall he remain on the high ground […]

The Engineer and The Gardener: the Central Tension in 21st Century Management
by David Hurst

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 10th Global Peter Drucker Forum

“Warm hearts allied with cool heads seek a middle way between the extremes of abstract theory and personal impulse” Stephen Toulmin, Return to Reason In Masters of Management (2011) Adrian Wooldridge (Bagehot columnist for The Economist and frequent Drucker Forum participant) identified four defects in management theory: That it was constitutionally incapable of self-criticism Its terminology confuses rather than educates It rarely rises above common sense It is faddish and bedeviled by contradictions After declaring management theory “guilty” on all charges in various degrees, he identified the root problem as an “intellectual confusion at the heart of management theory; it has become… a battleground between two radically opposed philosophies. Management theorists usually belong to one […]

Management Needs to Return to Reason
by David Hurst

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 10th Global Peter Drucker Forum

‘The arts of life…turn out to possess their own special methods and techniques…Bad judgement here consists not in failing to apply the methods of natural science, but, on the contrary, in over-applying them’. Isaiah Berlin, Political Judgement Ever since the European Enlightenment reason has been regarded as the hallmark of our humanity. The French philosophes argued that it was the power of abstract thought that separated us from animals. Only reason promised a certainty that could free us from the tyranny of tradition, dogmatic faith and arbitrary rule. Reason and rationality There was, however, not a single Enlightenment. While the French took Descartes as their model and focused on the supremacy of his rational method, […]

Management: a Noble Practice
by David Hurst

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 9th Global Peter Drucker Forum

The theme of the 2017 Global Drucker Forum to be held in Vienna later this year is “Growth & Inclusive Prosperity – The Secular Management Challenge”. Dictionary definitions of prosperity mention a condition of being successful or thriving, especially economic well-being – a desirable accompaniment of living. What’s the essence of living then? Three Viennese psychotherapists came up with three distinctly different answers: Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) claimed that it was the ‘will to pleasure’ Alfred Adler (1870-1937) argued that it was the ‘will to power’ Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) contended that it was the ‘will to meaning’ All of them have a kernel of truth, for it’s difficult to imagine humans flourishing without each of these […]

Brexit: Crisis and Opportunity – Nothing Lasts Unless Incessantly Renewed
by David Hurst

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in 8th Global Peter Drucker Forum

Multilayered complex systems are stable when the large and/or slow processes govern through constraint the smaller, faster ones. Sudden change can take place when agents at a lower level escape the restrictions of agents higher in the system, disrupting the whole. This principle applies to all complex systems from golf swings to management organizations and political structures.   The Founding Fathers ensured that this was the case in the structure of the American government when they wisely arranged the different branches of government in a systems hierarchy of constraint. The House of Representatives is elected every two years, Presidents every four years, the Senate every six years (on staggered terms) and the Supreme Court is […]

Management Wisdom: Recovering the Tension Between the Hard and the Soft
by David Hurst

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 8th Global Peter Drucker Forum

In The Witch Doctors: Making Sense of the Management Gurus (1996, revised 2011) John Micklethwait (former editor-in-chief of The Economist, now of Bloomberg News) and Adrian Wooldridge (Schumpeter columnist for The Economist) identified four defects in management theory: That it was constitutionally incapable of self-criticism Its terminology confuses rather than educates It rarely rises above common sense It is faddish and bedeviled by contradictions They declared management theory “guilty” on all charges in various degrees, and went on to identify the root cause of the problem as an “…intellectual confusion at the heart of management theory; it has become not so much a coherent discipline as a battleground between two radically opposed philosophies. Management theorists […]

What is an Entrepreneurial Society?
by David Hurst

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 8th Global Peter Drucker Forum

What is an entrepreneurial society? I think of it as a socio-economic system that is capable of constantly renewing itself. It retains its identity by constantly recycling and restructuring its elements. It achieves that elusive quality that Peter Drucker looked for in organizations throughout his career – a “balance” between continuity and change, order and movement.   For basic illustrations one can turn to nature. Ecosystems like temperate forests offer an example that may be paradigmatic; the innovative process begins in an open patch, where there is equal access to sun and rain and space for small-scale experimentation. We call the pioneers that come into this patch “weeds” – fast-moving organisms with simple structures, suited […]

Claiming Our Humanity in a Digital Age: Big Questions in Vienna
by David Hurst

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in 7th Global Peter Drucker Forum

The theme of the 2015 Drucker Forum that ended in Vienna two weeks ago was “Claiming Our Humanity: Managing in a Digital Age”. Nearly 500 management academics, business people and management consultants from all over the world attended the two-day conference in Vienna.   The preliminary events began with a CEO Roundtable on the afternoon of Wednesday November 6. The opening ‘provocation’ was supplied by Tom Davenport and Julia Kirby’s June 2015 Harvard Business Review article “Beyond Automation”. In it they address the threat that artificial intelligence in the form of smart machines is encroaching on knowledge work to such an extent that it will lead to widespread unemployment. In the past machines took over […]