The Drucker School, part of Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, honored its namesake, Peter Drucker, March 9 with Drucker Day 2019. The theme was “A Spotlight on Organizations – and Their Leaders – That Contribute to a Functioning Society.” The concept of (and aspiration for) a functioning society was a longtime touchstone for Drucker, and the focus of his 2003 book, A Functioning Society: Community, Society, and Polity in the Twentieth Century.

Photos courtesy of Claremont Graduate University

As I wrote in 2017, I’ve attended and sometimes participated in this event for more than a decade. Jenny Darroch, who became Dean of the Drucker School in late 2016, and is also a longtime professor there, moderated the proceedings, which included her discussion with Roger McNamee, author of the recent bestseller Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe. As much as the day traditionally spotlights the life and work of Peter Drucker, it’s also about what is happening now at the school, and how its alumni contribute to society.

For instance, the keynote address, “Hollywood Films and the Role of Storytelling in a Functioning Society,” was by Bettina Sherick (MBA ’98), senior vice president of consumer insights and innovation for 20th Century Fox, and founder of Hollywood in Pixels, Inc. The panel discussion, “World Healthcare Today: How a Local and Global Healthcare Industry Contributes to a Functioning Society,” featured alums Walt Johnson (EMBA ’10, MPH ’12), head of the World Health Organization’s emergency and essential surgical care program; senior healthcare executive Beth Zachary (MA, Executive Management, ’92), the former President and CEO of Adventist Health Southern California Region, as well as Richard Yochum, President/CEO of Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. It was moderated by business executive/CNN contributor Ryan Patel, who was recently named a Senior Fellow at the Drucker School.

Jenny Darroch, Drucker School Dean

There was also a tribute to Jean Lipman-Blumen, a leadership luminary who recently retired after a long career as a Drucker School professor. The school has posted videos of the tribute to Dr. Lipman-Blumen, as well as Jenny Darroch’s opening remarks, her discussion with Roger McNamee, and the healthcare panel, on its YouTube channel. A local newspaper, the Claremont Courier, has an interesting interview with McNamee, published before the event. CGU has posted a concise writeup of the day, “This Year’s Drucker Day Takes on Facebook, Healthcare, and Hollywood.”

Here are my top 10 takeaways from this year’s event:

1. Storytelling is more than a buzzword. Countless books and articles discuss the importance of storytelling. Bettina Sherick gave us additional insight into this concept, including its influence on personal lives and careers in Hollywood, one of its epicenters.
2. The Peter Drucker legacy is alive and well. The Drucker School, The Drucker Institute, which is “closely aligned” with the school, and the Global Drucker Forum, preserve Drucker’s legacy, and extend it, so that it remains fresh and vital.
3. {Your Name Here} Day 2069. One of the unspoken themes of the day was to live a life worthy of an esteemed legacy. Project out to 2069, fifty years from now. Some people reading this post will be alive then, and many will not. In either case, will an institution, educational or otherwise, have a day in your honor?
4. Sometimes you have to shake things up. This year’s Drucker Day was different on several counts. It was scheduled for March rather than the traditional November (meaning that it wasn’t held in 2018); it was in a different building, the church-like Bridges Hall of Music, and had a shorter, different format than in previous years.
5. Peter Drucker was right about problem solving. One of my favorite Drucker quotes is “Problems go away because someone does something about them.” That was evident during the healthcare panel, where we heard how multifaceted and complex most healthcare problems are, especially as they relate to hospitals.
6. The difference between a book and a movement. Roger McNamee’s impassioned talk showed that he views his book as part of a growing movement he and others are leading, to make technology companies more accountable for the effects of their products and services. It reminds me of a quote attributed to Johanna Vondeling, who on May 1 will become president/publisher of Berrett-Koehler:  “Books don’t sell movements. Movements sell books.” (Johanna was the editor of my first book, Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, published by Berrett-Koehler in 2009.)
7. It pays to have engaged alumni. Besides those noted above, more than 100 of the 403 attendees were alums. Any school needs enthusiastic, committed former students who can be role models for current and prospective students, and ambassadors for the school’s importance.
8. Location, location, location. The real estate adage comes into play as a selling point for The Drucker School, located in lovely Claremont, less than 40 miles from Los Angeles. Who wouldn’t want to spend a couple of years studying in those surroundings?
9. Prospective and new students are the lifeblood of a school. They represent the future, and there is considerable competition for the brightest, high-potential people. I was highly impressed by those I met, each poised and personable, with off-the-charts educational accomplishments.
10. The serendipity factor in networking. As wonderful as it is to have the videos of Drucker Day, you have to be there for the full effect, which means networking throughout the day, including at breakfast and lunch. I met many super-interesting people I did not know before, sometimes just because of where I was standing or sitting. For example, during the program, I happened to sit next to Louis Alloro, who turned out to be a leader in one of my particular areas of interest, positive psychology.

Bettina Sherick, keynote speaker

As Jenny Darroch said in her introduction, there are exciting developments happening at the Drucker School, and there will be more in the coming months. The challenge of creating and sustaining a functioning society is not going to go away between now and Drucker Day 2020.