What Have I Learned?


I love this question. I’m asked often and in many different forms.

Whatever the form of the question though, it always makes me think. Deeply.

Because learning is very important to me. And I do not take the responsibility of answering lightly. The right answer said at the right time could change someone’s life.

My answer to the question could vary depending on recent experience. But it will probably always come back to one of a few key themes.

So, I’m going to answer the question. But before I do, I want to share how someone a lot smarter and wiser than me answered.

Peter Drucker

I chose my graduate school specifically so that I could take classes with Peter Drucker.

A brief primer, if needed:

BusinessWeek called Peter “the man who invented management”. And he did.

He has alternatively been called “the father of modern management”.

He was the author of 39 books, all of them brilliant. In his books and teachings, he introduced most of the major management concepts that are now accepted as fundamentals, such as “management by objectives” and the idea of “knowledge workers”.

Peter consulted with and positively impacted several large organizations and their leaders.

In 2002, 3 years before his death, Peter Drucker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Peter was curious and he was absolutely brilliant.

Most importantly, everyone lucky enough to be in Peter's orbit held him in the highest possible regard.

On October 21, 1987 at the dedication of the Drucker Graduate Management Center at the Claremont Graduate School, then 87-year-old Peter Drucker answered the question “What Have I Learned?”

I keep his answers within reach of my desk.

I’ll share each of his 3 answers in different posts.


Here’s number 1 from Peter Drucker:

“ The first thing I have learned during 50 years of working with, and studying, institutions and the people who manage them is that workmanship counts. Mediocrity does not become genius through being conscientious, but it becomes effective through it. And genius that lacks conscientiousness and workmanship soon degenerates into something well below mediocrity; it becomes cheating and fakery. Few tasks in any discipline require genius, but all require conscientiousness. Without it, the “genius” is only a showman and a media personality.”

If this is the first thing that Peter Drucker wants to share that he learned, I'd say its worth giving a lot of thought.

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