Peter Drucker – a Modern Elder.
When I first met Peter Drucker, I had been a fan for half my life. He was the brilliant thinker who shaped modern management around the world, influencing thousands of executives and corporations, changing businesses forever.
He walked from the plane, waving away any assistance, tapping his cane, ready to keynote a management conference where I was going to do his Q&A after the keynote. I was thrilled and nervous. I never thought about the fact he was 89 years old.
Yet, according to most business thinking today, an 89-year-old man is “old”, past his prime, done, over the hill. What business today would ever hire an 89-year-old who didn’t use email or a computer? Drucker typed his notes to me, xxx’ing out errors and then faxing them. How could he possibly have had anything to say about the technological age?
Everyone knows the world is driven by youth, starting with Baby Boomers and evolving through Gen Xers, Millennials, and the alphabet of youngsters that followed. Isn’t it?
As I accompanied him to the car, I had no idea that in the next hour, we would quickly form a friendship that lasted until his death at the age of 95, simply because we had both known media guru Marshall McLuhan personally. I answered a question about McLuhan that had puzzled him for 60 years, and it sealed the deal.
As we drove, I asked him questions. One of them was about using numbers and data to make decisions. I was the CEO of a market research company and wanted his opinion about the best way to do it. His answer floored me. It was funny, insightful, and wickedly ironic, based on his experience with bankers and investors as a young man.
In his thick Austrian accent, he smiled and answered, "Never trust a number unless you make it up yourself."
To this day I’ve never been able to find this quote in any of his writings even though it is so profound it should be engraved on every MBA spreadsheet. In an age of fake news, it is a meditation and a cautionary reminder that seems more relevant today than it was 20 years ago.
We spent the afternoon (and pieces of the next 6 years) sharing ideas. He was curious after the internet revolution and how McLuhan might have metabolized it (more on that in another blog). He was critical of the way universities “threw away” older professors along with their wisdom just to make room for younger staff.
Every time we connected until his death in 1995, I learned more and grew more. Sometimes, I think that if I’d asked his thoughts about the value of a "modern elder", he might have said, “Just go out and do it – make yourself useful.” So I am.
John’s passion is helping people and businesses grow. He is recognized as an accomplished, award-winning global marketer/researcher, creative strategist and tactician, and innovator of hyper-customized insight solutions that have helped companies identify the trends of tomorrow and profitably act on them today.https://www.parikhal.com