The Nextsensing Project is about transformation, so the news of the next Drucker Forum (@GDruckerForum) is most welcome. On November 13-14, 2014, in Vienna, the 6th Annual forum will be held and the theme is most timely: “The Great Transformation: Managing Our Way to Prosperity”.

Reviewing the invitation to the forum [link], I found it interesting (and encouraging) that the entire tone was one of grave seriousness. Consider these words from the overview in the forum, printed in bold on the website: “It appears we have arrived at a turning point where either the world will embark on a route towards long-term growth and prosperity, or we will manage our way to economic decline. Thus the very coherence of our societies is at stake.” Wow!

But equally fascinating to me was the next block of text given boldface treatment, dealing with the core focus for the event:

Are managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs up to the task of tackling the great transformation that we face? Most would argue that they are not. Hence, what can we do about this? What does it take to reshape Management as an effective social technology (as Drucker called it) for transforming our institutions and organisations?

Man In Front of MazeIt seems obvious (and, again, I am most encouraged by this) that “transformation” at both the macro economic level and the organisational level is now a mainstream topic for discussion. However, it is equally discouraging (based on the views of those working on the Nextsensing Project) that current management skills needed to think differently seem to be far from accessible to most managers and leaders. Worse, such skills seem far from acceptable in many organisations.

This is exactly the void that Nextsensing is trying to help fill. While it is not sufficient in and of it self, the process for thinking differently about present-tense challenges and future-tense opportunities is indeed a necessary (and much lacking) practice in most firms today. That could be because too many leaders believe that true transformation is too cumbersome, too complex, too overwhelming.

While I would never say that real change is easy, we’ve worked hard to make the nextsensing process simple and straightforward: start with your best observations of the current situation, organise those thoughts into patterns you can interpret, then originate a novel point of view about how things could and should change — all of which leads you to opportunity foresense, your best hunch of a novel product or service that could be the basis of a compelling, new value proposition.

If you start with genuine aspirations for the future and a willingness to challenge the status quo, this process can yield ideas that are both practical and prudent at any/all levels of the organisation. And I believe firmly that it can happen right now, without long transition times or steep learning curves. Empowering people to be more systematically human at work just might help.

Steve Denning (@stevedenning) is a keen observer of the current state of management. In his recent Forbes post about this year’s Drucker Forum [link], he provides a great summary of the major issues to be addressed in Vienna. Yet in many ways, Denning — in his online introduction to his book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management [link] — captures the problem with eloquent force:

The reality is that organisations today face a crisis. It’s not a crisis involving a single event like the financial meltdown of 2008. This crisis is more serious and more insidious.

The crisis is of long standing and its signs are widespread. The rate of return on assets of US firms is one-quarter of 1965 levels. Innovation continues to decline. Workers are disgruntled. Customers are frustrated. Brands are unraveling. Executive turnover is accelerating. In the last 25 years, startups created 40 million jobs in the US, while established firms created almost none. Traditional management is broken.

Here’s hoping the forum in Vienna is a start at creating a new and better form of management. It’s desperately needed.