Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.
– E. M. Forster
Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.
– E. M. Forster
Aristotle said “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.”
This statement applies just as much to one’s profession as to one’s purpose. It crosses real and perceived work and personal boundaries. It applies to organizations as well as people. It ties to a purpose where others can thrive and grow. What you produce has merit; has purpose; helps fulfill the needs of another.
A few months ago I met Sara an artisan bread maker. She loves making bread and takes pride in her creations. She tests new processes, times, temperatures and ingredients. She is extremely good at what she does; making bread. She is extremely good at filling a need; making wholesome creations that help people feel special, loved and cared for. She makes bread that fills our bellies as much as our souls.
The “market” may be saying that people buy bread from factories and where and when it is convenient for them; or maybe that the business purpose of small ventures should be to be acquired and to grow. To sell as much as they can. To make a profit or to make a million more of something.
But there is a group of clients and friends that crave this particular bread maker’s creations. A tribe of people that don’t want to buy bread the “usual” way, and that waits for the next iteration of the barley loaf or multigrain sourdough.
Her work, her art, her talent and her passion collide with an unwavering need. It may be a niche market, an unconventional need, but it exists and it is important.
When you find your talent and where it fits in the world, hold onto it; although it may take on many forms, locations and iterations, it is what truly makes us unique and human. It is your gift. Your bread. Your purpose.
Last month, I had the privilege of representing the region of Latin America at the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna, Austria. The Forum is in its 9th year and as a former Drucker Challenge winner and writer for various magazines in Latin America, I was invited to participate and dialogue with some of the world’s leading management thinkers sharing ideas around the theme of “Growth and Inclusive Prosperity.” It strikes me, in symposiums such as this one, how conversations seem to lead back to education and learning: as formative and as restorative ways of improving our society and our organizations.
Peter F. Drucker was born in Austria 108 years ago. He passed away in 2005, but he has been almost unanimously claimed in the media, the business community and academic circles as the “Inventor of Management.” His work (including over 40 books and papers) guides most modern management practices and many of his ideas and concepts – such as “Management by Objectives” or “Knowledge Worker”– are part of our daily lexicon.
He was a teacher, professor, writer and consultant. He worked with large multinational companies as well as public sector institutions, schools, think tanks and entrepreneurs. He grew up in Vienna in a traditional prosperous Viennese family surrounded by philosophers and thinkers. He moved to Hamburg and Frankfurt to study at the age of 18. There he met esteemed economists and thinkers such as Hayek, Mises and Schumpeter.
Drucker’s education and thinking were characterized by an exposure to a wide range of ideas, personalities and schools of thought. Being of Jewish origin, Drucker moved to England in 1933 and later emigrated to the USA. In the US, he found a force driving social development: US corporations becoming global players in an industrial society. Working with corporations like General Motors, Drucker was keen to share his brilliant ideas about the importance of management; not simply from the point of view of efficiencies and productivity, but as a practical discipline that supports and furthers work in (and for) community and society.
At times, “leadership” has so taken over our thinking and our organizations that we sometimes forget about the importance and beauty (Drucker called it “Liberal Art”) of management. As Drucker said: “Management is most and foremost about human beings.” When we place human beings at the heart of what we do, we are able to make the decisions that drive impact and social change. This resounds with most teachers and educators I know and I have the privilege to work with. Management is a means of driving organizations forward by thinking through and planning for the best possible outcomes; it is not about money or “shareholder value” but rather about the impact your organization has on society and on the world; and sometimes it starts with one person.
GPDF17. Photos courtesy: Peter Drucker Society
The Global Peter Drucker Forum honors the work and ideas of Peter Drucker. Designated the “World’s Management Forum,” it takes place every year in Vienna in honor of Peter Drucker and is comprised of several plenaries over the course of two days. The sessions involve authors, consultants, directors, entrepreneurs and students presenting their ideas around particular topics and themes; issues of relevance to business and the management of organizations. While education and learning was a constant topic of conversation, one session in particular, “Applying new lenses to look at the challenges of our time,” was particularly enlightening from a learning perspective. Sarah Green Carmichael (Senior Editor of Harvard Business Review), Hal Gregersen (Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center), Thomas Wedell (Partner at The Innovation Architects) and Roger L Martin (Director at the Martin Prosperity Institute, #1 on the Thinkers 50 list and author) talked about the “problems” we are trying to solve as leaders and society and that often it is the frame from which we see the problem as more of the issue than the problem we are trying to solve. Wedell talked about spending more time understanding the problem and less time trying to solve it while Gregersen characterized those people that ask catalytic questions and seek out situations where they are wrong as the most successful individuals (employees, leaders or managers) in driving their organizations forward. In other words, our fascination with certitude – and the idea that our view is the only one that matters – is the driving force behind ineffective management of organizations. Looking for the questions to ask is a directly correlated with moving out of comfort, certitude, bubbles of isolation and with embracing what we may find uncomfortable – silence, distinct environments, injustice – in order to make positive change.
Fellow Canadian, Roger Martin, has written several leading business management and strategy books including The Opposable Mind (2007). Former Dean of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, Martin now runs the Prosperity Institute and along with other participants at the Drucker forum calls for a transformation in business education.
This is where we come in. As educators, administrators, managers and leaders, there is a resounding call to make our organizations more human and more human centric. The “how” is really up to us but I would venture that there are some pearls of wisdom in the works of Peter F Drucker; not as the “guru of management thinking” as he is commonly referred to but as the teacher and human being who returned to basics and touched the world of management thinking with simple phrases such as: “don’t tell me what … tell me what you are going to do on Monday that’s different.”
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Existen artículos y libros que hablan del “fin de la ventaja competitiva”. En ellos se explica que la empresa del futuro se basa tanto en activos tangibles como en activos intangibles, conecta –en vez de dividir– intereses y destaca por el alineamiento de valores en vez de la competencia entre intereses, empresas y mercados.
Puede sonar idealista dentro de una sociedad y un mundo de negocios que se vuelve más competitivo cada día, pero a raíz de este movimiento, en la administración de empresas hay una idea muy sencilla y comprobada: un enfoque equilibrado es la clave para que una empresa tenga éxito en el corto, mediano y largo plazo.
Si nos enfocamos sólo en ganancias, no invertimos en proyectos innovadores. Si seguimos sólo lo que hace la competencia, no tenemos apertura hacia ideas nuevas e innovaciones que crean mercados (como explica Clayton Christensen en su libro The Innovator’s Dilemma). Steve Jobs, durante sus años creando productos para su empresa Apple, decía que no le importaba lo que quería el mercado, porque el mercado no sabía lo que quería.
La idea fundamental del “fin de la ventaja competitiva” es que no nos encerramos en lo que hace la competencia ni en generar retornos. Las organizaciones tienen que redefinir el éxito; por ejemplo, la nueva ventaja competitiva puede ser la conexión de la empresa con la sociedad. Empresas que son conectadas con sus stakeholders y crean productos y servicios que tengan relevancia en las vidas de ellos (ejemplo: Netflix, Uber, etc.) son mucho más exitosas que las empresas que niegan los cambios en los deseos y comportamiento de sus clientes. La conexión entre una empresa y sus seguidores hace la diferencia siempre y cuando la empresa tenga contemplada esta apertura a la innovación y conexiones inesperadas.
¿Cómo lograr este equilibrio entre proyectos innovadores que no generan ganancias todavía y los servicios o productos que son codiciados en el mercado? Existen tres áreas estratégicas donde una empresa del futuro “vive” este equilibrio:
Una reevaluación de la definición del éxito a través de la visión organizacional y los planes de inversión (incluyendo mitigación de riesgo y de inversión en innovación/investigación y desarrollo) dice mucho de qué tipo de empresa queremos ser y si estamos aprovechando la innovación y la conexión de intereses. La empresa del futuro, entonces, necesita un liderazgo que tenga una visión amplia del éxito y de la prosperidad basada no sólo en la ventaja competitiva.
This blog post was originally published in September 2015 by Forbes Mexico as a featured business article.
From Esther Clark’s article “Seemingly Bad Ideas” published April 2016.