Rick Wartzman is the executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University and a columnist for Forbes.com. He is the author of What Would Drucker Do Now? (which is a collection of his columns) and two books of narrative history: Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and (with Mark Arax) The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American History.
Last January, a group of leading management thinkers gathered in Switzerland to “see what can be done to . . . energize organizations in ways that make them better for the organizations themselves, better for the people doing the work, better for those for whom the work is being done and better for society as a whole.”
Next April, a group called Conscious Capitalism expects to draw some 1,500 people to San Francisco to explore how companies can “adopt a higher purpose that transcends profit maximization.”
And in between, hundreds will convene in Vienna on November 15 and 16 for the fourth Global Peter Drucker Forum, which will examine how business can become, as Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman (one of the forum speakers) puts it, “a force for good.”
As I’ve watched these events come together-and heard similar notions about rethinking capitalism from David Cooperrider (Business as an Agent of World Benefit), Michael Porter (Shared Value), Dov Seidman (HOW) and others-I’ve felt buoyed by each of their visions.
And I’m sure that Peter Drucker would have felt good about them, too. He believed, after all, that the best corporations “define an organizational purpose that goes beyond next-quarter financial results and goes beyond maximization of shareholder wealth.”
Still, deep down, I have to admit that I’m struggling to understand the import of it all: Does this flurry of activity add up to more than a bunch of scattered conferences and white papers? Are we actually witnessing the beginnings of a social movement?