Exploration versus Exploitation

On the occasion of the 8th Global Peter Drucker Forum held in Vienna over 500 delegates from various countries reunited with renowned academics from business schools around the world. Having met Peter Drucker twice 31 and 21 years ago in person at seminars in Austria and Switzerland, where he recognized me personally from our first encounter, I was curious what 11 years after he had ceased away, a Forum under his name might be like. The reason for remembering me at the time had been my answer to what did everyone contribute to his organization recently, saying: “I got my people together and challenged them with the question what we had learned recently”, just one year after I had taken office in my former special material solutions company. A lesson of our customers had taught us in a slightly spacy state, who we really were by our means of competences. Given the company’s intentional onward exploration to stay best in class in that discipline, the most important lesson of my life!
However, following the 2016 Forum, the world’s management culture has not moved much from searching reliability in terms of endeavoring to sustain by ever improving efficiencies towards caring about validity of its objectives. Meaning to explore what the customers’ real needs are irrespective of disruptive and transformative changes necessary to match their yet unmet requirements. On the one hand side many still think failing is a shame, falling short of learning from iterations. On the other hand only very few document their decision drivers sufficiently transparent to all executers involved or concerned, to know when failing what was right and where assumptions may have diverted from realities met aspiring for the objectives. A condition precedent to a “what have we learned” learning culture as a counter strategy against stagnation driven by failure fearing cultures. Allowing a customer to induce an organization’s people new ideas and develop processes that can integrate between thoughts and actions into collective initiatives of key teams. Unless the leaders don’t trust in their teams, not considered mature enough to lateralize responsibilities?
Unfortunately many people working for organizations cannot adopt to adhocracy, requiring leaders to shift from prestige to presence, joining into experiments on opportunities for team achievements by discipline alike a National Eleven must have in soccer. The liberation of the people on the customer front requires the full commitment of all line managers – always aspiring to get as many team members out to the front. The model of course is bound to fail as soon as a captain or co-captain evidences ambiguity of commitment calling for hierarchic final decision making for orders overruling the empathetic approach, unlocking new competencies in perceiving causal contexts to allow fighting complexities by simplicity. Executives actually must release entrepreneurial energy to unlock innovations towards important customer opportunities. These requisites become increasingly important with proceeding Knowledge Economy and Millennials moving up the hierarchies, not wanting to be managed anymore by the ”what got us here is going to get us there” paradigm but being focused on purpose, better achieved by collective achievement than individual excellence. Their leaders need to foster a culture of discovery, connect causalities, compose teams empowered and motivated by letting them experience “who we are” or what’s the company story. All an innovators’ organization needs is customer dialogs, documented customer-to customer process flows defining all necessary inputs and validation capable outputs, decision points and competencies as well as the information distribution plan particularly in cases of non-conformity escalation including applicable cognizance. Living it is quite simple and can be a lot of fun, but is hard to everyone!

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