Thursday, 24 March 2011

Intellectual fingerprints

Jim Collins uses this term in crediting Peter Drucker's influence on some of the most famous innovative companies such as Hewlett Packard, an organisation built on values.

Drucker did not follow the tendency to make a Procrustean Bed from theory, fitting the data to what had been proposed in abstract. He began with empirical data based on the observation of people and organisations in practice and then reflected on the role of organisations in the evolution of society at this stage of human history.

One distinction Collins makes is between the tendency to answer questions of increasing irrelevance with increasing precision and Drucker's courageous drive to ask questions of increasing significance and find answers with increasing empirical rigour.

Collins takes the view that the overriding question is 'How do we make society more productive and more humane?'

If you build great, well-managed companies and destroy human beings in the process, this would be a failure.

Collins discloses how his team of young, sceptical students challenged his ideas and pushed him into research on Level 5 leadership.

Collins challenges received notions of underprivilege used to explain poor success in society, citing examples of level 5 leadership enabling people to triumph over adversity.

In scenario thinking he uses the metaphor of climbing a mountain to describe our present state in a world of ferocious change. We are climbing at 20,000 feet in a storm and far from base camp. Collins believes we will return to prosperity, but not stability. The storm may pass, but there's no return to base camp. Developing countries have long experience on the side of the mountain and are better skilled than we are in dealing with this environment.

One of the challenges for rising generations is in dealing with change and restriction over time, without expecting rapid development or a speedy return to better conditions.

He quotes Admiral Stockdale's account of time spent in a Prisoner of war camp in Vietnam and his claim never to have been an optimist during that time:

'When you're imprisoned by great calamity, great difficulty and great uncertainty, you must never confuse the need for unwavering faith that you will find a way to prevail in the end and the discipline to confront the most brutal facts we actually face.'

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