"The human dimension" - The Global Peter Drucker Forum at 10

June 13, 2018

An exclusive Interview with Richard Straub, GPDF initiator

“Management. the human dimension”—that is the leitmotif of the 10th Global Peter Drucker Forum, which will take place in Vienna later this year. To mark this special anniversary, we spoke to Richard Straub, the president of the Peter Drucker Society Europe, about the remarkable success story of the world's leading management conference, the unsolved questions of our time and his very personal reasons for doing what he does.

Logo 1oth Global Peter Drucker Forum

Mr. Straub, the Peter Drucker Forum was founded in 2009, the year Peter Drucker would have turned 100, meaning it celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018. How has the forum, which is considered to be the world's leading management conference, and deservedly so, developed since its inception?

It is great to see that, since the first year of its existence, the conference has developed into a magnet for management thinkers and practitioners from around the globe. It provides a forum for discussing the future of management practice as well as social issues in a comprehensive and in-depth manner. We have been privileged to welcome many of the world's leading thinkers and practitioners, including Charles Handy, Roger Martin, Lynda Gratton, Mariana Mazzucato, Clayton Christensen, Paul Polman and Zhang Ruimin. This year, the conference will, for the first time, take place at the Hofburg imperial palace, which is an important testament to its significance. Moreover, we are intensifying our global activities, with partner events being organized in Japan, Korea, India and Great Britain.

The leitmotif of this year's forum is “Management. the human dimension”. You have chosen this theme on purpose. Why and why now of all times?

As a result of the digital tsunami, we are faced with huge challenges, especially when it comes to the future of work and the role of humans: On the one hand, the young generation is increasingly wondering why one should work; on the other, Peter Drucker himself turned the spotlight on the human dimension. We have chosen this leitmotif with a view to exploring the hot topics in contemporary management through a human prism, as it were, focusing in particular on the following question: How can a culture of management be nurtured that puts people, their potential, and their needs and wants center stage again?

In your opinion, what will be the future role of management education in this context? What can—and can't—it do?

To echo what Peter Drucker said—more than ever, management has a social function to fulfill. And it is this function that management education must focus on: We need executives with a humanistic education who reconcile the humanities with the natural sciences. People who concern themselves not only with digital transformation and artificial intelligence but also with philosophical, psychological and anthropological issues.

Picture of a woman talking to somebody
Executives with a humanistic education are needed - executives who concern themselves not only with digital transformation but als with philosophical and psychological issues.

Where do you (and your team) get the inspiration for new leitmotifs for the Peter Drucker forum?

In Peter Drucker's publications, you find a never-ending wealth of topics and questions that are as burning today as they were in his time. Moreover, it is always a good idea to listen to the young generation when it comes to identifying the issues that need to be followed particularly closely. We cover topics between these poles (and generations).

In your opinion, what are the big, unsolved management questions of our time?

Management is not a science but something you need to bring to life in the real-world—it is about social and cultural skills that are shaped by major theories (such as the theory of disruptive innovation) and the experiences that executives have in their day-to-day work. Management made great progress in the industrial age, but our current approaches are, more often than not, still rooted in the model of the industrial age, which is characterized by linearity and hierarchical, bureaucracy-prone organizational structures. What we need is a management model that focuses on agility, resilience and the capacity to evolve. Such a system will enable us to make new innovative leaps going far beyond what GAFA, for instance, are currently able to achieve.

What does it mean to you personally that, being the president of the Peter Drucker Society Europe, you annually organize the world's leading management conference?

It gives me great satisfaction. After all, the personal investment is considerable. We are a small non-profit organization and have achieved all this by ourselves without any subsidies—we have had to earn every single euro; all our collaborations with partners and sponsors need to create value for everybody involved. It goes without saying that I also feel the responsibility to continue along the path we have begun: That is what a growing global community expects us to do. The conference is the tip of the iceberg, if you like, around which a worldwide dialogue on burning management issues evolves—in the form of events in numerous countries, blogs, and social-media activities.


My motto in life:
I live my life in widening circles (Rilke).
For me, freedom means:
To think for myself and not to follow the dictates of the mainstream. It is very disquieting to see bans on thinking and expressing one's opinion re-emerge as a result of ideological and dogmatic narrow-mindedness.
I can laugh about:

When the protagonists of “Silicon Valley”, a TV series that hits the nail on the head, claim “We want to make the world a better place” but the plot lays bare their real motives in a blunt manner. A portrayal of today's Silicon Valley (and Hollywood) hypocrisies …

Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
Mistakes happening only once, i.e. those that people learn from.
I would spend my last money:
on a meditation retreat in a monestry
In 20 years I will:
Not yet have reached such a ripe old age as Peter Drucker, but I won't be too far from it either. Having his energy and drive when I am that advanced in years would be a dream come true.

As partner of the Global Peter Drucker Forum we are proud to offer our students and alumni a special discount: with a registration until July 15, 2018, they will get 25% off the participation fee for this event. The special price is € 1,481.25 excl. 20% taxes (standard price € 1,900.00 excl. taxes).

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