Top 10 Takeaways From Drucker Days

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Top 10 Takeaways From Drucker Days

It’s been nearly two years since I was in Claremont, California to help celebrate Drucker Day, the (sometimes) yearly event produced by the Drucker School of Management as a tribute to Peter Drucker. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the school come together for learning, fellowship, communal meals, and networking. There has not been a Drucker Day since then, and it is unclear when there will be another in-person event of its type.

Rather than dwell on when the next one will be, I’ve harvested ten lessons from the many Drucker Days I’ve attended, with insights drawn from speakers, panelists, Drucker School professors and other leaders:

  1. Return to first principles. Peter Drucker taught that you can’t successfully move into the future unless you understand your present reality. A powerful statement came during a surprise element in 2017: the unveiling of an eerie and otherworldly “holographic effect” of Drucker speaking about his principles of teaching, consulting and writing about management. In the segment, an interviewer observes that a lot of his principles seem like common sense. “All of it is common sense,” Drucker responds. “That’s why it’s so rare.”
  2. Peter Drucker was right about problem solving. One of my favorite Drucker quotes is “Problems go away because someone does something about them.” That was evident during the 2019 healthcare panel, where we heard how multifaceted and complex most healthcare problems are, especially as they relate to hospitals.
  3. Observe and perceive what’s really there. This was a theme in Drucker School Professor Jeremy Hunter’s 2017 presentation, “The Zen of Drucker: Mindfulness and the Practice of Self-Management.” Jeremy, a Corporate Learning Network contributor, showed that once you become hyper-aware of what comprises your life and what physical and mental spaces can be created, you are more likely to make personal and professional breakthroughs.
  4. Mindfulness leads to resilience. At the 2012 Drucker Day, Jeremy led a participatory session, “Cultivating Your Resources: Building Resilience from the Inside Out.” He guided the audience in a brief meditation structured around ways to discover internal resources (such as positive experiences, favorite places, or pieces of music) and external ones, such as “values, beliefs and experience that sustain and nourish you.” Paying attention to these resources can produce positive changes in body and mind, whether you do it on your own, or in the presence of others.
  5. {Your Name Here} Day 2071. One of the unspoken themes of the two most recent Drucker Days was to live a life worthy of an esteemed legacy. Project out to 2071, fifty years from now. Will an institution, educational or otherwise, have a day in your honor?
  6. We’re living in a Creative Economy. The British author John Howkins was the keynote speaker for Drucker Day 2013; with the theme “The Creative Economy: Where Managers and Creatives Collaborate to Foster Innovation and Economic Value.” A lasting impression from that day was that creativity is increasingly the backbone for many different industries, not just the media, music, films, TV or other areas that we traditionally associate with creativity.
  7. Storytelling is more than a buzzword. This follows from point six. Countless books and articles discuss the importance of storytelling. In 2019, Drucker School alum Bettina Sherick, an executive at Warner Bros. Entertainment, provided additional insight into this concept, including its influence on personal lives and careers in Hollywood, one of its epicenters.
  8. Be open and receptive to new information and diverse experiences. In 2017, Professor Hovig Tchalian presented about the Claremont Game Lab, based at the Drucker School but open to students from any of the Claremont Colleges. Creating successful games involves creativity, and multiple skills in business and various technology areas. There were also presentations on “Disruption in Children’s Linear TV,” by Emily Arons, a Game Lab mentor and an executive at the Pokémon Company International; and “Can Augmented Reality Save the {Shopping} Mall?” by Wanda Gregory, also a Game Lab mentor and now a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.
  9. Seek out and gain new perspectives. Each time in Claremont I stayed for several extra days to meet people and look for new insights beyond the Drucker School. In 2012 at the Honnold/Mudd library on campus, I attended the Claremont Discourse Lecture, “How American Bandstand Created the American Teenager,” by then-Scripps College professor Matthew Delmont (now a history professor at Dartmouth), based on his book The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia. In 2009, I attended the opening of an exhibit from Peter and Doris Drucker’s collection of Japanese art, “Zen! Japanese Paintings From the Sanso Collection,” at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, at Scripps College. I returned days later for another Japanese-themed exhibit, “Genji’s World in Japanese Woodblock Prints.”
  10. Appreciate people while they are still alive. In 2017, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Drucker School professor Joseph Maciariello, one of Peter Drucker’s closest collaborators. I always liked to visit with Joe, and I’m grateful that he made time to see me in 2019, a year before he passed away. In 2012, I attended a fascinating talk, “How I Became a CEO,” by John Bachmann, held several days before Drucker Day. At the time, he was senior partner (and retired managing partner) of Edward Jones, and chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Drucker School and trustee of Claremont Graduate University. I interviewed him years ago for my first book, and was glad to have a brief chat with him after this event. Bachmann died in 2019.

As wonderful as it is to spend time in sunny, idyllic Claremont, you can draw on some of the same spirit that animated Drucker Days by applying the above principles in your own life and work, wherever you are based, or whatever your work entails.