The IDB Project|Chapter 1
Opportunity Favors the Prepared Mind
“Opportunity favors the prepared mind. If opportunity knocks at the door you have to open it. You have to be receptive to it and I was.” — Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker opened the door of opportunity in 1943 when he was asked by General Motors to conduct a study of the company’s management system. At the time, Drucker was a professor of politics and philosophy at Bennington College (Vermont).
He had come to the United States six years earlier from Austria after earning a doctorate degree in public/international law (University of Frankfurt, 1931) and spending a few years as newspaper reporter (The Austrian Economist and Daily Frankfurter). He wrote two books during this time, The End of Economic Man (1939) and The Future of Industrial Man (1942). Drucker’s business experience was limited to short stints as an investment banker and economist in Europe.
While at Bennington College, Drucker was interested in studying the inner-workings of a large corporation. However, no corporation was willing to allow Drucker internal access for such an in-depth study. That is, until the serendipitous phone call from General Motors.
Drucker was prepared for this opportunity and the resulting work, CONCEPT OF CORPORATION (1946), changed the game of business management.
The concept of managing a corporation had always been about top-down decision-making from senior-level executives. After studying General Motors, Drucker learned to believe decentralized decision-making was the recipe for sustained success. He argued employees needed to be viewed not as dehumanized costs, but rather as valuable assets. Drucker went further by writing that employees should be given more responsibility to make decisions in order to create a “self-governing plant community.”
The CONCEPT OF CORPORATION was written over 60-years ago, but its impact can still be felt today. It took a few decades, but by the 1980s, the majority of Fortune 500 companies had implemented some form of decentralized decision-making.
Next, Chapter Two of the The IDB Project.