3 Cures for Death by Convention
Peter Drucker, whose business writing is still the clear and essential, wrote about the Theory of the Business in an HBR article in 1994. While his references to IBM, GM and Marks and Spenser seem out of date – his thinking and assumptions about business and organizations are, without peer, still contemporary.
There was one perspective that came through clearly - the risk of organizational drag (or death) by convention.
The key point that I notice in Drucker is about the mindset that great organizations hold. The ones who excel and the ones who thrive are willing to ignore (blow up) convention – rather than so many in organizations who cling to its safety. Convention becomes the saboteur for innovation and true performance.
These are the 3 antidotes:
Be emotionally, intellectually and socially open to new facts and questions – cold truth as well as warm truth.
Be accountable for keeping your inner-system and socialized thinking robust and authentic.
Never stop learning and evolving, deepen your insight from action, reflection and courage.
Where I would say ‘yes,, and’ to Drucker is his assumption that it is executives who are charged to be un-conventional. I would say that this kind of authenticity and engagement is something that should be personified across much of the organization. Ideally, anyone with a purpose and accountability should also be able to hold two perspectives at the same time: current operations to plan, and improvements unbounded by convention. I would say that today’s complexity requires this kind of commitment and integration among most of the players in the circles that make up extended organizations today.
A few more points on Peter Drucker. (I would pick Drucker for my answer the question “If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be.”).
There are so many speaking to their truths today, but Peter spoke to many of them first. There are many who espouse new models of working and organizing, while disparaging ‘management’, but those are sometimes ones who are seeking distinctions for the purpose of differentiating (they have something to gain). Or, they are just un-aware of the giant on whose shoulders they stand.