APPENDIX A -- Intuition Without a Structure?
One of the biggest mistakes business consultants make is riding over the differences in people. This isnít an endorsement of the "diversity" programs that consume so much Fortune 500 money; far more pertinent are the different ways your colleagues process information, and relate to each other. The only way to respect the latter distinctions while "committing sociology" -- i.e., developing models -- remains the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The two women who developed it, 60+ years ago, got their founding map from the famed psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.
Jungís 1921 book, Psychological Types, floodlighted Intuitives and Intuition. Intuition is Latin for "to look at or into." Jung knew his own type, of course, and it sounds like he knew Peter Druckerís, even though the two never met.
From page 453 of Types: "I regard intuition as a basic psychological function. It is the function that mediates perceptions in an unconscious way. Everything, whether outer or inner objects or their relationships, can be the focus of this perception. The peculiarity of intuition is that it is neither sense perception, nor feeling, nor intellectual inference, although it may also appear in these forms. In intuition, a content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence."
If you know much about MBTI, you know the disconnects -- at work and elsewhere -- between classic "sensors" and strong "intuitors." Strong sensors process "reality" rapidly, and are reactive and pragmatic. They usually know what to do, but often not who they are or what they believe -- because they elevate the "objective" over the "subjective." In contrast, extreme intuitors have the opposite tendency: Grasping emerging or plausible realities before almost anyone else can see, hear or otherwise appreciate them -- so early that whatís newly "real" to them looks like Looney Tunes to family and colleagues.
And yet -- the extreme sensor and the extreme intuitor share one dilemma: They are both "reacting" to things as opposed to "managing" them. Back to Jung on how this plays out: "Intuition is a kind of instinctive apprehension, no matter of what contents. Like sensation, it is an irrational function of perception. As with sensation, its contents have the character of being Ďgiven,í in contrast to the Ďderivedí or Ďproducedí character of thinking and feeling contents. Intuitive knowledge possesses an intrinsic certainty and conviction, which enabled Spinoza (and Bergson) to uphold the scientia intuitiva as the highest form of knowledge. Intuition shares this quality with sensation, whose certainty rests on its physical foundation. The certainty of intuition rests equally on a definite state of psychic Ďalertnessí of whose origin the subject is unconscious."
Without his intuition, Peter Drucker would have struggled in obscurity. Yet intuition isnít a set of skills, and it sure as heck isnít something he "learned." Rather than learning how to be a good intuitor, the need was to discipline or at least structure this uncontrolled force or characteristic.
Strong intuitors wrestle with their own intuition -- because, as Jung explained, it typically feels autonomous and "irrational." In this case, I take "irrational" to mean having a logic of its own, outside oneís conscious thinking. Absent self-discipline and repeating reality-checks -- from a mate, a job, trusted professional peers, a church, self-image or other source -- intuition disorients its "holder." He or she canít readily offer reasons for what is going on. Enticing new things -- personal directions, strategic innovations, human constellations -- take hold. Just like that. Out of the blue. Youíve heard the intellectual begin a sentence with "it just struck me that..." Yes, it did. This type has a link to another world, or perhaps a hidden self, and the pipeline is usually conceptual or perceptual. One result is euphoric bursts of work. Another is frequent restless nights. A third is baffled or alienated professional associates.
No one is on record asking Peter Drucker if he was an intuitive. But when the questioning came close, he evaded it; fed them mysticism; admitted his own honest bafflement; or conjured up a structural hook from his professional past. Asked how he wrote, he said he had no idea -- "it's a compulsion neurosis." A wider spin comes from Jim Collins, who was told by Drucker in late 1994: "I started in journalism... I had to write fast to make deadline. I was trained to be prolific." Collins then echoed the "neurosis" comment that was already in the public record: "For Drucker, writing is a compulsion ó a form of productive neurosis, which explains his grand output... Drucker occupies a rare quadrant of genius, being both highly prolific and remarkably insightful."
That comment to Collins about deadlines is helpful background. Still, the ideas and words have to come from somewhere. Drucker could never fully explain it. This extreme intuitor therefore risked becoming a wanderer, a restless searcher, and a slave to his insights. In that critical sense, he had nothing in common with his typical Fortune 500 reader and decipherer. (To do well in most sections of any large company, one needs to be a sensor, respecting the here and now, along with what appears to be "just around the corner.")
Iíve worked closely with intuitives since meeting one of the most driven of them all -- Newt Gingrich, who spent most of the 1970s as a "methodically mad" college professor. "Iím a carefully controlled living fantasy," he told me in the early Ď80s as a second-term congressman. Not until 1987, four years after leaving that payroll, was I urged by Van Wishard to start reading Carl Jung. As one of many results I diagrammed, in December 1994, Gingrichís political leadership using passages right out of Psychological Types -- and got confirmation from several of his associates, that very week.
Unlike Gingrich, who found a long-term governance objective at age 15, most hard-core intuitors lack focus. They have no grand goal, no legacy-linked direction that -- as it is implemented deed by deed -- puts to use the otherwise disorienting daily brain spasms and nocturnal kick-starts.
Druckerís career course -- and please
remember, I canít "prove" anything Iím saying about that here -- speaks to me
precisely because he was at least a decade ahead in divining the need for
structure. By age 41, he had talked
Think of a Net-based community. It has strong and weak members. Several dozen have been active for years. What holds them together? A unique theory of American generations encompassing 400 years. Not just our whole past as a society, but the next two or three decades as well. Hundreds of people in this group are extremely perceptive. They also feel part of a charmed circle that has been favored with a rough form of prophecy: As a group, they have adopted a model that can explain almost anything, at least in terms of mass sociology and cultural change.
The web provides a sandbox for intellectualized play. Self-recruitment is the rule, keyboard and screen are the tools. Over nearly a decade, they post 10,000 web commentaries, to the point of alienating colleagues and family. But wow, are they having insights. It can also be said that the insights are having them -- for lunch, dinner, and on past the midnight hour...
It was awe-inspiring to realize how much thought and energy the unified theory could induce this electronic community to contribute. Nor was it in any sense a cult -- because no person or "leader" occupied the center. The guys who wrote the original book putting forth the theoretical framework could disappear for six months, and it didnít matter -- the web postings piled up and sorted themselves. No one gave instructions, leadership ebbed and flowed, and even when the messages "got emotional," the arguments were conceptual. The theory was so vast it offered plenty of room for movement.
What kind of social phenomenon are we looking at? The regulars at this website were not fanatics nor, in general, kooks. Yet the "sandbox" of a self-governing electronic community wasnít enough of a structure. Except for one fellow who delivers rigorous stock-market and political cycles research, no one could package the ferment and creativity in a way that could improve a single associate's life. This web community had no market to satisfy because they constituted their own market; or, letís use the word "audience," because here was an ongoing "speculative frenzy" where no money changed hands.
Pulling way back from that group after 2000, and realizing how my own intuitive tendencies had squandered much of the 1990s, I made a vow to build structure, achieve focus, and deliver tangible products. And thatís when I began suspecting that Peter Drucker had prevailed in a similar struggle. Intuition, like a big and boisterous dog, can be your best friend. But when you enter polite society, that animal damn well better be on a leash.
APPENDIX B -- Guru Without a Classroom?
Itís possible to laud Drucker, and have known him as a business colleague, and largely miss the role played by his classroom work. Case in point: Management Innovators, a 1998 book by Daniel Wren with the late Ronald A. Greenwood (who died in í96).
The authors produce great business profiles and categories:
Inventors, Sellers, Movers, Communicators, Financiers, Organizers, Quality-Seekers. All the
greats you'd expect to see -- plus some underacknowledged heroes, such as Bully Durant and Mary
Parker Follett -- find a place in this book. And
Those final 10 pages offer an unusually personal portrait. We hear about his parents and family -- a real rarity. One of the authors recounts Drucker saying he was "not a consultant but an insultant" because "I long ago learned not to be nice, because people do not hear you when you hint." John Tarrantís book is called upon (I never saw it referred to anywhere else). And Management Innovators lists the vintage Drucker "right questions" for strategic focus: "What is our business? Who is the customer? What does the customer buy? What is value to the customer? What will our business be? And what should it be?"
Five years ago I would have thought the Wren-Greenwood chapter perfect. But the lone shortfall strikes me as serious: Other than mentioning the five colleges were he taught (one of them as a "professorial lecturer" on Oriental art), this í98 book called Management Innovators said nary a thing about the role Druckerís classroom time played. You have to look elsewhere.
So? One more reason for this recklessly ambitious web treatment. To rejoin the essay right where we look at Peter Drucker the college teacher...