Joe’s Journal: On Drucker’s Poetry and Innovation

“ Innovation opportunities do not come with the tempest but with the rustling of the breeze.”

–Peter F. Drucker

Creativity is a significant dimension of innovation. But, I think what Peter Drucker was saying here is that usually innovation opportunities don’t come as a “bright ideas” in a violent way. They come in a plodding way, out of discipline and productivity, in an area that you’ve immersed yourself in. When you take time to reflect on what remains to be done; step away from the routine and examine it from a new vantage point you often find that it comes together in a flash. What can happen is that when you’ve done the work, but then step away, things can begin to gel and become clearer.

[EXPAND More]When Peter developed and defined the discipline and wrote The Practice of Management in 1954, he had already been working with the ideas since the early ‘40s — the middle of the Second World War, when expressions of optimism for the future were often considered pure fantasy. He was then invited to work at GM with Alfred Sloan and from there to GE and so on, and all of these experiences were the rustling, they were the quiet beginnings of something new.

These things take time to build and that’s why I think Drucker was concerned that innovation be thought of as a systematic process where you have to take the small advances with the big, because if you take enough of the small ones together they can become pretty significant innovations.

I like that he was trying to be poetic here; but like a proverb, it’s not right all the time, but it’s pretty good. It’s a poetic and a useful generalization.

–Joe Maciariello