Peter Drucker and The Future That Has Already Happened
August 31st, 2016
In my recent post “Peter Drucker and the Forward Focused Mindset,” I noted that Inevitability was one of the 10 Elements of the Future that I derived from Drucker’s life and work for my 2013 book Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward Focused Mindset. Inevitability is a shortened way of expressing Drucker’s long-held concept of ‘The Future That Has Already Happened.’
I devoted the entire second chapter of the book to this idea, which is, in simplified form, the anticipation of the effects of events/trends that have already taken place and will unfold over a period of time. Consider this quote from Drucker’s 2004 compilation The Daily Drucker:
“But the most important work of the executive is to identify the changes that have already happened. The important challenge in society, economics, politics, is to exploit the changes that have already occurred and to use them as opportunities. The important thing is to identify the “future that has already happened” – and to develop a methodology for perceiving and analyzing these changes.”
Developing the methodology and putting this concept into operation is not easy. But here are some ways to approach it for maximum benefit:
1. Human Intelligence (People and Groups): Learn from your daily interactions with people, or even structured, purposeful interviews. Consider starting or joining a ‘journal club’ that is focused on the future, in which a group of friends/colleagues meet once a month or so to discuss in depth a particular journal article or book.
2. Online and Printed Sources: Read as widely as possible, in print as well as online. While there is seemingly unlimited material on the web, don’t overlook the premium online sources (available free, with your library card), provided by many public libraries.
3. Demographics: The 19th century French philosopher-sociologist Auguste Comte, whom Drucker, in his 1989 book The New Realities, called the “father of sociology,” is credited with the saying “Demography is destiny.” Drucker regularly studied demographic trends, and we have access to even more sources online.
4. Government/Institutional Statistics: The United States government, in particular, publishes highly detailed statistics of all kinds online. Particularly relevant in this context is data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics site.
5. Awards, Honors and Prizes: These are both informational and inspirational, especially the MacArthur Foundation’s MacArthur Fellows Program, popularly known as “Genius Grants,” and The Drucker Prize, an innovation-oriented award from the Drucker Institute.
These suggestions only skim the surface. Apply the Drucker-related combination of keeping an open mind, casting a wide net and figuring out what’s relevant. The future that has already happened may be clearer than you’ve expected.