Cutting edge management theories

We're putting in a proposal to run a three day symposium with a theme and curriculum that reflects knowledge and experience with cutting edge management theories and principles and in leadership and managerial executive education. Getting the call to work on this first thing on Sunday morning as the submission date is tomorrow forced me to drop what I was doing (writing the book) in favor of responding to the request. This reminded me of my time management teaching days when I had to explain the distinction between 'important' and 'urgent'.

However, I then turned my mind to 'cutting edge management theories'. First stop, what? I guess, define cutting edge. So I brooded a bit on this. 'Cutting edge' seems to me to be less about new and faddish and more about what actually works in practice and makes good sense.

On this basis the most cutting edge seem to be Peter Drucker's theories which are not, for whatever reason, featured highly on business school programs, but which are timeless, sensible, and written in plain English (or American). The Economist's comment on the centennial of Drucker's birth makes the point that

The most important reason why people continue to revere Drucker, though, is that his writing remains startlingly relevant. Reading "Concept of the Corporation", which was published in 1946, you are struck not just by how accurately he saw the future but also by how similar today's management problems are to those of yesteryear. This is partly because, whatever the theorists like to think, management is not a progressive science: the same dilemmas and difficult trade-offs crop up time and again.

So first stop Drucker. Then what? Well judging that massive bureaucracies and leading edge technologies are uneasy companions – and the participants in the symposium will be people working in those two conditions there seems to be a call for some discussion around the issues of new technologies and well established, some would say hidebound, organizations. Next stop, then Gary Hamel and his thoughts on 'The Future of Management' and a re-reading of his article 'Moonshots for Management'.

Two stops seemed enough to get a high level outline up on computer screen (more cutting edge than 'down on paper') although I am aware that I didn't consider the thousands of other potential cutting edge management theorists but stuck with what I've found useful.

Thinking on symposia that I've attended I'm always weary by the end of day one of being talked at by experts and long to do something. So I've mentally tagged day one as being the input and discussions on cutting edge, then day two using various collaborative technologies to work out what cutting edge means in the participants' particular situations, and day three as a case simulation where they can all try out what they've come up with and get some practice in applying the cutting edges without fear of damage to themselves.

Of course, submitting a proposal is not the same as winning the bid – but I enjoyed putting the book writing aside temporarily and, in fact, came across material that will contribute to the book – so some value in taking urgent over important in this case.

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