Peter Drucker: My Modern Elder.
Why do I admire this man, who passed away at age 95 back in 2005? The answer is simple: Peter Drucker epitomized the ultimate “modern elder,” someone as curious as he was wise.
In fact, Peter Drucker believed that curiosity was the elixir of life. He embraced three-year (later three-month) self-study systems. He chose an area of interest—from Japanese ikebana to medieval war strategies—and learned about it deeply, even though it had nothing to do with his role of being one of the world’s leading management theorists.
Drucker suggested that personal development was essential for career development. He also believed in “systematic abandonment,” in which you ask yourself: “If you were not already engaged in a particular activity, knowing what you know presently, would you start doing it now, based on your experience/results?” This question reminds me of the Buddhist proverb that says, "learning to unlearn is the highest form of learning,” which sounds a lot like MEA’s “Great Midlife Edit.”
Drucker further suggested that the most critical question any organization leader can ask relative to their mission is “What business are we in?” which MEA has turned into a signature line of inquiry that is repeated five times, each time going deeper and deeper into the heart of the answer. We ask this question along with another question: “What mastery can I offer?” This question is more applicable to the individual looking to stay relevant.
Drucker also said leaders of the past knew how to “tell,” but innovative leaders of the future will be brilliant at how to “ask.” Hence, MEA focuses on Appreciative Inquiry as part of our core curriculum.
In 1959, Drucker suggested that organizations would soon be dominated by “knowledge workers” and that they would rule the world (7 of the 10 most valuable companies in the world are now tech companies, which proves how right he was). Today, MEA believes it’s time to replace the idea of “knowledge workers” with “wisdom workers.” The times are drastically changing. Knowledge is abundant and readily available (literally in the palm of our hand), while wisdom is becoming a rare commodity, especially in many of our organizations. As Drucker might have suggested, we need to adapt and learn.
Finally, Drucker showed us that later life could be a time of great generativity, which he proved by writing two-thirds of his 40 books after 65.
Of course, no one knows Peter Drucker as well as Bruce Rosenstein, who’s written two books and numerous articles about him. He recently created “The Peter Drucker Files” which uses Drucker’s teachings as a roadmap for these uncertain times. If you want to tap into Drucker’s wisdom, keep an eye on Bruce Rosenstein’s website and maybe we’ll get Bruce to do an MEA alumni online event in the not-too-distant future.