In his trajectory of thought, Peter Drucker was the intellectual heir of both Auguste Comte, the father of sociology, and Herbert Spencer, British philosopher and sociologist. Combining the methods of Comte and Spencer, Drucker’s approach was both scientific and empirical.
For Drucker, like his predecessors, the synthesis of various fields - economics, philosophy, history, sociology, literature and art - was the key to understanding social phenomena. Drucker and his intellectual forebears were true transdisciplinarians, able to integrate the insights and methodologies of various fields to focus a lens on complex societal forces. That synthetic approach was behind Drucker’s declaration that the field of management was a “liberal art.” Drawing upon many disciplines, Drucker surveyed empirical data and then drew the trend lines with amazing accuracy. Drucker’s hallmark, his uncanny predictions about tomorrow, frequently surprised and delighted his readers.
There is another way in which Drucker resembled Spencer. That was in his moral and political philosophy, his belief in the importance of community life based upon an altruistic concern for others. It was from this perspective that Drucker focused his attention on not-for-profit organizations that were, for him, central to a moral community. His insight of the critical interaction of government, for-profit, and not-for-profit organizations enabled him to take the broadest and deepest view of the workings of society.
Yet, for me and perhaps for others who were also privileged to know him personally, Peter’s greatest legacy was his integrity and humanity. In the 22 years that I knew him, Peter always stood as a bulwark against corruption and dishonesty. He spoke truth to power, even in the face of threatening consequences. When asked, Peter gave deep and detailed advice to junior colleagues and urged them to greater heights. On a very personal note, it was Peter Drucker, in three long telephone calls those many years ago, who persuaded me to become his colleague at what was then known as the Claremont Graduate School. For that and many other gestures of kindness, I remain in his debt.
As I have noted, one of Peter Drucker’s most salient characteristics was his ability to see around corners - that is, to recognize what tomorrow’s critical issues would be. Consequently, I think it would be entirely fitting to honor Peter’s legacy by trying to emulate that activity in an annual “Critical Issues Summit: Strategies and Solutions,” to which we would invite corporate leaders, policy makers, scholars, researchers, pundits, activists and other experts. The Summits would convene policy makers from the entire political spectrum, both federal and state, government officials charged with running existing relevant programs, policy researchers from universities and think tanks, as well as corporate, not-for-profit and community leaders.
The charge to the Summit participants would be three-fold:
l) To consider the particular topic (e.g., corporate corruption, bioethics, poverty, potential pandemics, global social movements, religious divides, education for tomorrow’s world, etc.) in all its complexity;
2) To create a multi-dimensional, transdisciplinary (i.e., political, governmental, corporate, NGO’s and other non-profits, including educational institutions with relevant disciplines, think tanks, etc.) plan for coordinating a solutions-oriented approach to the problem;
3) To set up an Oversight Board to ensure that the plan is implemented, benchmarks are set and met, and that periodic reports are produced to inform the public of progress to date;
4) To set up a meta-board from the individual Oversight Boards that can exchange strategies and solutions for the future. The meta-board would evolve over time, as the series of Summits grows.