As the complexity of modern life grows, so does the number of seminars, workshops, coaching sessions and other “learning how to cope” events. Can there be as many “truths” as there are gurus?
To answer that question I introduce a distinction between “foundational thinkers” and “how teachers”. I see foundational thinkers as those advocating “why” models based on key notions associated with a particular issue. These type of thinkers attempt to capture the underlying cause. How teachers on the other hand concentrate on recipes for dealing with an issue, often in the form of steps, frameworks, etc.
In my personal experience and research I have come across much fewer members of the first category. This is also the category that I value the most. That is because “why” models allow and indeed demand that the student use his own problem solving skills to derive the “how” particulars for a given situation. In other words “why” models allow customization and adaption of the methods to the circumstances. “How” teachings on the other hand provide a recipe which the student is to memorize and repeat. This is bad for two reasons: memorization discourages critical thinking, and in a complex world no circumstance is likely to repeat exactly.
Many of the teachers (leadership coaches, high end consultants, etc.) I have come across wisely avoid the “why” question and go straight into “how”. “Why” questions are hard and can even be uncomfortable and what business-savvy teachers know is that many of the customers for these types of sessions come there to feel good and relax, rather than be mentally challenged beyond their abilities. Mental challenges create stress, and a stressed customer is not good for repeat business. “How” teachers are astute observers of human psychology, while foundational thinkers are scholars of knowledge and discovery.
Returning to foundational thinkers, they also come in different echelons of value. The most valuable provide complete and internally consistent ontologies for a pervasive issue. These individuals are a few a century. But in terms of generating a following, “how” teachers definitely hold the upper hand.
When going to the next seminar or workshop or coaching session, do ask yourself what category your teacher fits. If you feel too good about yourself and no hard thinking is required, you’re probably in the “how” teaching zone.
Michael Barger (@MichaelBarger1) said:
Dear Mr. Ledelescu,
When I discovered today your article “Democracy full circle: its invention may hold the key to its future” at the blog of the European Drucker Forum I felt like Diogenes at last finding an honest man.
Catastrophe looms as the Fiscal State continues to collapse bringing with it the dissolution of social cohesion that was Peter Drucker’s greatest fear having wtnessed the chaos of Europe after World War I.that led to World War II.
We need more than ever the thinking of Peter Drucker the social ecologist, and unfortunately by and large American Druckerians have failed in this regard to thik in fidelity to the fulness of Drucker’s thought and not just parts which they invoke to justify their partisan political ideologies.
Either they are absorbed as managers of corporations and non-profits without regard to deeper critique of society and government or like the academic guardians of the Drucker Institute, promoters of the Fiscal/Regulatory/Welfare State and the justification of contemporary Liberal and Progressive Orthodoxy.
But what is needed is Druckerian muti-dimensional social ecology thinking and its analog in the Integrative Thinking of Roger Martin.
We need the foundational “why” thinkers you point to not just as consultants and their business management clients, but as journalists, political thinkers, and academics in fields other than business management.
Euro-Druckerians at the forum of the Drucker Institute of Austria seem much less prone to the one-sided blindness of American Druckerians:
Perhaps they have studied their Hegel and understand the world is in great need of a new Aufhebung in our thinking if we are to reconstruct societies and economies after the coming collapse..
And perhaps because the Blue State Model, as Walter Russell Mead calls, is implording first in Europe before it implodes in the US under the weight of massive debt and the folly of our feckless political class.
Stefan Stern, who is as politically liberal a Druckerian as they come, wrote at the Global Drucker Forum, “We don’t need a new guru. PF Drucker will do.”
In your reflections and thought I have found at least one thinker who is carrying on in authentic fidelity to Drucker’s thinking.
I am now your tenth follower on Twitter. I look forward to more commentary from you there and here on your blog.
Mulțumesc foarte mult.
Thank you so very much for the kind words and reinforcing points. When I started this blog, I wasn’t aiming for mass popularity. At the same time I was hoping my thoughts would be useful to someone, somewhere, at some point.
Your commentary serves as a wonderful reassurance for the argument of quality over quantity. I would rather resonate with a select few than receive a million superficial “likes”. As to your Diogenes allusion, the ideas presented here are attempts at solutions to frustrations I encounter which derive from what I see as systemic societal issues. The honesty factor comes through because these issues are real and personal. Also, what may at first glance look like critique aims to serve a higher positivism and constructiveness purpose.
I look forward to a rich virtual dialogue that I am sure will expand the context of my insights. I will try to make it to the Drucker Forum in Vienna this year and I hope to see you there,