A Drucker Forum based Revolution? Why exclusive management and innovation concepts made Hermann Simon and Gary Hamel angry in 2016 and how Charles Handy and the new Power of ecosystems may help us to overcome both in 2019!

Winfried Felser
Nov 20, 2016 · 8 min read

The Global Peter Drucker Forum 2016 was an event of outstanding uniqueness, not only because of its participants, but because of its important “job done”.

It began with the “The Entrepreneurial Society” and ended even more important with the “Inclusive Society” (Drucker Forum 2017!) and in 2018 finally we discovered the “Human Dimension”. Vienna 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 … and discussions after Vienna may be a platform to develop the necessary visions for such an “Inclusive, Human Centric Society”, where The Power of Ecosystems will play a central role. The alternative may be not only some angry management thinkers, but a dystopian Dark Capitalism.

But let’s start with the beginning ;-)


1. A homage to the Global Peter Drucker Forum …

The purpose of this article is on the one hand an homage to the Drucker Forum and to the leading women and men inspiring the community in Vienna, especially to Richard Straub for his incredible lifetime achievement.

The final panel with Gavet, Hagel, Hamel, Martin, Kotler, Christensen …

The limits of my English can hardly describe the special quality of flows I was part of, in Vienna. Where else in the world do you have the chance — as I had — to talk two days with people like Phil Kotler, Maelle Gavet, Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo, Mariana Mazzucato, Fredmund Malik, Hermann Simon, Ralf Köster, Gisbert Rühl, Prabhu Guptara, Alexander Osterwalder or Nicolas Colin and others to boost your own perspectives through a collaborative interfusion with great minds? Although I could not talk with John Hagel or Roger Martin, there presentation nevertheless influenced my perspectives a lot.

But Vienna was not only an intellectual flow, it was a great pleasure to be there. I am thankful for the “laughs” with Ralf Köster, Prabhu Guptara and Fredmund Malik during the speakers night and with Efosa Ojomo and Andreas Müller the day after. Efosa by the way transformed my most preferred “job to be done” metaphor (job to be done theory of Christensen) from milkshake into a billion-dollar story. I hope to hear more from him soon. He is for me a thinker for an Inlusive Society, especially for Africa.


2. Exclusive/inclusive visions of the entrepreneur and innovation

On the other hand it is an article about two questions in the center of the Global Drucker Forum which may have a fundamental impact on our future.

What is the right vision / paradigm for:

a) The Entrepreneurial Society?

b) Innovation in the Entrepreneurial Society?

  • Entrepreneurs only?

The reflections were inspired by a question and an almost invisible conflict during the Drucker Forum. The question was: “Will the Entrepreneurial Society be a society of entrepreneurs only”. The invisible conflict was a conflict between the “representatives” of disruptive and non disruptive innovations. Should the Entrepreneurial Society be a society of entrepreneurs only? I do not think so. In the worst case such a society — this is my believe — will degenerate into a dualistic society with a few of monopolistic billion dollar “entrepreneurs” on the top, glorifying the Uber-Menschen — and a mass of precarious “not-really-entrepreneurs” entrepreneurs at the bottom!

Exclusive or inclusive paradigm of “Entrepreneur” and “Innovation”

This Dark Capitalism finally will eat democracy as Phil Kotler made it very clear in Vienna. But what is the alternative? The Entrepreneurial Society should be a society with a real “Entrepreneurial DNA” in the best INCLUSIVE way possible, where we all and not only a few members of an elite (“Uber Menschen”) have an entrepreneurial attitude towards each other.

In this scenario being entrepreneurial is a collaborative network job to be done in ecosystems and not the job of a single Uber-Mensch!

This will — in the best case — generate inclusive prosperity for the 99% too.

  • Disruption only?

But it was not the only separation/exclusion question we talked about in Vienna. It seemed as if we talked 50% of our time in Vienna about exploration versus exploitation and a small bridge Alex Osterwalder was drawing as part of his sketch … How can we enable a “normal” company to be successful in both areas or even more general how can we have an inclusive innovation architecture on the level of the society. Here we might discover a second separation/ exclusion, the exclusion of small and medium sized enterprises from the disruptive innovation logic. We might fail to master exploration / innovation or the integration of exploration and exploitation “at scale”.

The fundamental challenge: How to integrate exploration and explotation (sketch of Osterwalder)

Two speakers — Gary Hamel and Hermann Simon — were for me the most committed speakers against such dystopic perspectives for our future.


3. Gary Hamel was angry about “exclusive management”

Gary Hamel was a very angry white man in Vienna. After Phil Kotlers warning and his message of capitalism as a force destroying democracy and his story of the “Decline of Democracy” Hamels extraordinary emotional speeches against the absurdities of existing “exclusive” management and his demand for a more bottom up, grass root empowered management were perhaps the most iconic demand for alternatives. That the father of marketing criticizes capitalism and the father of all full basket of management (2.0) core concepts demands alternatives is perhaps more important than a lot of new neo marxists criticizing and demanding. Kotler and Hamel make clear:

There is really a job to be done!

Phil Kotler warns us: “Capitalism is eating into democracy”


4. Hermann Simon was angry about “exclusive innovation”

The most angry man from the German speaking community was Mr. Pricing, Hermann Simon. The “dis-cover-er” of the Hidden Champions seemed to be fed up with the one-sided glorification of the new Disruptors which often have gigantic negative, anti-social impacts and do not care a minute about anything beyond their scope. As an alternative he presented the Hidden Champions as creators of thousands of patents and billion dollar stories (not evaluation, but revenues!) who cared a lot for their people, e.g. in 2007/8.

His presentation made it clear that we should appreciate different kinds of innovations and that innovation cannot be reduced to horizontal disruptors or the Fortune Global 500 Corporations only. Ralf Köster, Ex-CEO of BARTEC and Entrepreneur of the Year 2015, and Gisbert Rühl, CEO of Klöckner and Germanys Nr. 1 reference for digital transformation of the Mittelstand, confirmed with their innovation stories the message of Hermann Simon.

Hidden Champions — success beyond the Fortune 500


5. From the Entrepreneurial to an Inclusive Society and beyond …?

So it is only logical what happened after the last panel. The Drucker Forum 2016 ended officially with the declaration of the motto of the Forum 2017:

“Growth” and — more important — “Inclusive Prosperity”.

Richard Straub and a better future: Growth & Inclusive Prosperity

This was the best motto possible for 2017, because the Forum 2016 answered a lot of questions, but it left especially some question of inclusive prosperity (and inclusive responsibility) partially unanswered.


6. 2017, 2018 … road to “The Power of Ecosystems”

The Drucker Forum Events 2017 and 2018 are best characterized by the iconic Closing Adress of Charles Handy. Listen to his word, to understand how fundamental the impacts of the Global Peter Drucker Forum may be:

… Actually, we need a cultural revolution. We need to rethink how businesses, particularly, and all organizations, are actually run, why they are run, and what is the purpose of business again. The things that we were talking about here earlier. And you’ll say: A revolution? Isn’t that a bit steep? I’ll say: well no, Luther did it, one man. And it has happened again. In 1970 Milton Friedman took it upon himself to announce that the only purpose of a business was to make a profit. And so, shareholder value came in, as you know. A word unknown in my youth. And then, helped by his ex colleagues, we got Agency Theory, we got the idea of a corporation, or a company, being just a bunch of contracts. We got, as you know, stock options, eventually legalized by Congress. And now, a swamp of buyback shares, trillions of dollars going into the private equities of some of the senior managers. It was all — in my view — a great mistake. But it was a revolution. It was corporate selfishness to a high degree and very dissatisfying to a lot of people. Some years ago I talked to all the workers in one of the energy companies in the UK, which had recently been privatized by Margret Thatcher. Halfway through one of the workers stood up and said: You know, he said, we used to say that we kept the lights on in Britain. Now we have to say, we make some people, whom we have never met, a bit richer.

It doesn’t feel the same, he said.

So my charter, my revolution, must include of course, as you were suggesting earlier, the role of business in society. But also, how we keep all the human values safe inside the corporation. And you will say: but who is the leader? As you were asking earlier. Who is going to lead this revolution? Well, let me copy another Martin Luther and have a little dream. No, a big dream.

Could you not the modern Wittenberg be here, in the Drucker Forum? And who is the Luther of our time? Why could it not be Peter Drucker? With his words from the grave magnified … by you. By us. And exemplified by putting our words into practice. So, the word goes forth, multiplied by 500 people speaking with a loud voice in their own area and their own spheres of influence and acting out their words in their actions.

And if people criticize you, be bold as Luther was, and say: here I stand I can do no other, because this is the right way to behave. Ask not where the leaders are. There aren’t any. We must just start small fires in the darkness, until they spread until the whole world is alight with a better vision of what we could do with our businesses. And I say to you now, If not us then who, if not now, then when?


7. The Power of Ecosystems! Will we succeed or fail?

In one week we will talk about “The Power of Ecosystems” in Vienna. This paradigm shift (we called it “Competence Network Society” in 1999) will be the answer to our open questions and the platform for the “Handy Shift”.

The question to the Peter Drucker Community: Will we succeed or fail to do our Job to be done and be of real relevance in this Great Tansformation or not?

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have a good time in Vienna.

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