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.

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