The Rajiv Dutta Distinguished Visitors program brings visiting scholars and executives to the Drucker Institute to explore Drucker’s work and further their own. In turn, they contribute to campus life, as well as to the larger community, during their time in Claremont.
Previous Distinguished Visitors include Professor Jiro Nonaka of UC Berkeley and Hitotsubashi University; social philosopher Charles Handy; A.G. Lafley, senior advisor at Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and former chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble; and Rajiv Dutta, managing director of Elevation Partners and former president of eBay Marketplaces.
In 2011, the program was formally named for Dutta, who passed away at age 49.
In the following essay, Charles Handy reflects on his experiences as a scholar-in-residence with us.
On Living in Drucker-land
By Charles Handy, Drucker Institute Scholar-in-Residence
I had long worshipped from afar. I had filled a shelf with his books, but had met him only twice, and then briefly, in his later years. And then Peter died, elderly but still too soon for me.
Then, out of a clear blue screen the invitation came. Would I consider being a scholar-in-residence at the Drucker Institute and the Drucker School in Claremont? Would I? How could I not? I would walk where he walked, talked with whom he talked, see where he lived, maybe even meet with his amazing wife, Doris.
Yes, I did all of those things, and more. I taught a course, along with my photographer wife, Liz, on discovering one’s identity and that of one’s organization. Very Drucker-like, with the focus on purpose. The set task for the course was for the students to prepare still-life portraits that captured their core identities in a set of photographs. These the School displayed in its foyer. They even held a reception to celebrate this very different type of course. Peter, I felt, would have smiled and approved, for images often speak more truth than words.
I also gave a public lecture to explain myself and my ideas—difficult since so many of them mirrored the master’s, but important for me both to acknowledge that and to emphasize some differences. I spoke again at a grand gathering to honor Peter’s contributions. In front of that prestigious audience, I tried to summarize what I had learned from Peter. I realized, as I spoke, that it was not just his ideas, but his way of learning that I had unconsciously absorbed; that I shared his endless fascination with people and why they did what they did; that stories and metaphors were the best way to communicate; and that, if I was honest, I was, like him, more a journalist than an academic.
In addition, the public radio program “Marketplace” took advantage of my presence in Southern California, asking me to do a weekly slot applying some Drucker-like thinking to the business concerns of the day. This was another testing learning experience for which I was nervously grateful.
What fascinated me most, however, was to live in a community, which still, years after Peter’s death, walked his talk, infected every course with his principles and set itself the task of Druckerizing the world. Maybe, I reflected, like many great artists, Peter will be more influential dead than alive. It was a privilege to be there and I left humbled, but also fortified by this evidence that ideas can often be more important than arms or money in changing the way people think and behave.