Peter Drucker wrote about how “the educated person” differed from the distinctively American understanding of those educated in the liberal arts tradition. A center of gravity shifted because graduates were not only to understand reality, but to master it. As a creature of the knowledge society, the educated person now defined society’s performance capacity.[i]
A colleague once said that the MBA came with a mortgage. The awarding of the degree carried with it the obligation to contribute, a sort of “pay it forward” idea. He challenged every MBA student in his classes to decide how they would give back. He raised the challenge of the tithe or “first fruits” concept, familiar to Jews and Christians in many places. Because the tithe was usually understood to be a “tenth” of what was received as income, the newly-minted MBA could consider how she would give 10 per cent back somewhere. Maybe this is the interest rate on the mortgage …
Alan Murray started a great conversation with his recent article titled The end of management. And of course (as he should have) he began with a Peter Drucker quote. A quick note to management professors everywhere… you’re not out of a job yet. The article may be more about the end of corporations and firms as we know them. Drucker believed that we would always have management but just as heartily endorsed organized abandonment. Murray’s really saying that it’s now the petrified Goliaths that must face this and it may be too late for some. It is fitting that A. G. Lafley is quoted at the end. Proctor and Gamble’s approach evolved from Drucker’s meaningful Outside.
At lunch one day, Peter Drucker – with his usual candor – announced that “the stand-alone liberal arts college cannot survive”. This alerted me that a teaching dialogue had been launched. He observed that alliances such as those of the five Claremont colleges or other creative partnerships were necessary for the liberal arts tradition to survive. (Obviously there are some top-tier liberal arts colleges, comfortably insulated by great endowments and elite status – this is not about them.)
Snuggled in Fry’s Harbor in the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara in our chartered 42’ Catalina, I set my cool new handheld GPS anchor alarm. The sailboat had bow and stern anchors out, sheltering in a small anchorage, but surrounded by a pristine, spectacular and largely untouched natural setting. One other boat anchored nearby made me a little nervous, but I knew my GPS wouldn’t let me down. I dialed in an anchor alarm setting with a 50’ diameter on the GPS and curled up to listen to the sea lions chattering back and forth in the dusk. An hour later an annoying buzzing made me sit up, banging my head on the overhead deck above me. The boat was outside the diameter and I knew that next, we were going to die. But poking my head through the forward hatch, a quick look-around showed we were safe.
Actually, this is not about leaping sea creatures at Sea World, but moves toward deeper waters…
PORPS teach us lessons about leadership and sustaining organizations.
Some researchers now believe that in the U.S. adolescents become adults around age 27. This means that most traditional college students will be “adolescents” the entire time they are undergrads. This raises some interesting questions for those of us concerned about helping shape the next generation of leaders. With experience educating mainly experienced managers, I wonder how best to form adolescents as leaders?
Peter Drucker coined “meaningful Outside” in October 2004, while discussing the work of the CEO with several senior executives and management scholars in Claremont, and eventually published an opinion in the Wall Street Journal. A. G. Lafley, CEO of Proctor and Gamble, sat in on the session and developed his thoughts later in an HBR article. Numerous bloggers have picked up on the idea and the phrase appears on new sites daily. [Perhaps we have a new datum for tracking diffusion of innovation.]
A difficult subject must be now be addressed. Even though the nearly infinite mix of majors, minors and specialties contribute uniquely to the capacity of each individual graduate, each will inevitably serve in an organization of some type. [There may be the odd starving artist in the garrett somewhere, but there may be a good reason that artist is starving...]
In the early nineties we put on “project roundtables” at Cambridge University in England. The idea involved bringing smart and energetic volunteers together [true knowledge workers who were bored at their real jobs and looking for a place to contribute] to complete a project for a worthy victim. People were willing to pay to be there. We threw in a few pub crawls and some punting on the River Cam for relaxation and spent the rest of the time sitting around big tables and talking. We had wrangled a contribution of old Macintosh laptops – cute clunky little dark grey boxes at that time – plus some innovative shared desktop software so everyone could work collaboratively on the same document interactively. This was way ahead of MacBook Airs and Google Docs. We didn’t know it at the time but we were true trendsetters.
David Brooks scores again. In today’s New York Times he connects Clayton Christensen’s commencement speech at Harvard to living the “measured” [and meaningful life]. Brooks describes the “well-planned life” and the “summoned self”. If Drucker’s educated person is to master the world’s realities, learning’s outcomes should drive the learning environment, rather than the other way around.
As a management professor, I am constantly learning that knowledge is created from the integration of theory, experience, (both individual and corporate), case studies of actual situations, informed dialogue, (integrating historical development and analysis), market activities and results, structured and intentional inquiry, and qualitative & quantitative assessment, to name a few.