BusinessWeek calls him "the man who invented management."
He advised the heads of GM, Sears, General Electric, IBM, Intel, and the American Red Cross. And in 2002, President Bush -- who was a follower of his teachings -- gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The man is Peter Drucker.
And to see why Bush and so many executives look to Drucker's work for guidance, here are five of the best lessons from the man himself... lessons that may very well change the way you think about business, forever.
1. "Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. "
Problem-based thinking: How can we divide this cake fairly?
Opportunity-based thinking: How can we bake more cakes?
If you focus on problems, at best you maintain the status quo. If you focus on opportunities, you achieve results above and beyond what already exists.
Ask yourself: Are you spending most of your time putting out fires and focusing on problems -- or are you focusing on exploring new opportunities?
2. "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all."
Managing your time is less about doing things right, and more about doing the right things. Before you try to optimize your schedule, look at it first to see what you can cut-out all-together.
What are you doing on a daily basis that you can eliminate? Delegate? If you stopped doing it right now, would your life change much?
3. "Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done."
Every management system you put in place should make the jobs of your employees easier to do, not harder. If you have to keep pushing people to do things your way -- maybe it's the wrong way.
What procedures do you have in place that rarely get done? Should you reconsider if they are even necessary?
4. "Entrepreneurship is 'risky' mainly because so few of the so-called entrepreneurs know what they are doing."
So many people just want to "start a business" -- they take out a loan, open up a bakery, and then it's out of business a year later. Then they chalk it up to bad luck or a bad economy.
But how about this? What if you spent more time sharpening your axe before trying to cut down the tree? What if you spent a month devouring The Lean Startup by Eric Reis and Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz? You can take some of the risk out of the equation (not all) with one word: reading.
Are you spending as much time reading as you should? Mark Cuban says he reads three hours a day -- how do you compare?
5. "It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence."
It's easier to go from good to great than from bad to good. So focus on growing your talents into strengths instead of trying to be a 'well-rounded' person.
A person who is good at a lot of things is replaceable. A person who excels in something is indispensable.
In what areas are you already good at? What can you do to turn those things into your super-powers?
What did you think?
Which Drucker quote spoke to you most? Which one was spot on?
And more interestingly -- which one do you disagree with?
Share your insights in the comments below.
Alex Banayan is the author of a highly anticipated business book being released by Crown Publishers (Random House, Inc.) The book chronicles his five-year quest to track down Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Warren Buffett, Steven Spielberg, and a dozen more of the world's most successful people to uncover the secrets of how they launched their careers.
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(Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/ AFP Photo)