Thank you to Bruce Rosenstein for this guest post. Bruce's new book: Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward-Focused Mindset is being release on November 22nd. If you haven't checked out his first book, it's a great read: Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life.
The future is not guaranteed for individual librarians, libraries or the organizations they serve. Special librarians in particular have learned this lesson better than most in recent years. That is why it is critical to develop a systematic, organized approach to how you view the future, and how you will create a better tomorrow for you, your library and your organization. Librarians and all information professionals can benefit from Peter Drucker’s approach to the future, which can be a powerful framework for how you can view your professional future and that of your library, and its role in the larger future of your organization.
Drucker had a major following in the library world during his career of 70 plus years, as a writer, management consultant and professor. He delivered the keynote address to the 2002 Annual Conference of the Special Libraries Association in Los Angeles. His views on the future helped guide him to great achievements, including writing more than 40 books, and being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush, shortly after the keynote at SLA. Drucker remained active until late in life, when he died at 95 in 2005.
Drucker believed that while you can’t predict the future, you can plan, work and make decisions in the present moment that will create the future. Here are five crucial areas to consider in creating a forward-focused approach to the future success of your library:
Mindset: As you work, plan, study and research, keep the future in mind, even if it is in the back of your mind. How will seemingly small decisions affect the future for you personally, your library and your organization?
Creation: While aware that the future is unpredictable, and carries inevitable risk, what can you do to create an improved tomorrow?
Present Moment: The accumulation of your plans, activities, thinking, planning and working alone or with others, carried out in the present, has significant potential effects for the near-term and long-term future.
Change: People and organizations should be organized for ongoing change, as difficult as that may be.
Remove and Improve: As an approach to creating mental and physical space so the future can properly unfold, Drucker advocated the paired use of systematic abandonment and kaizen. The former asks you to end activities that are no longer useful; and the latter requires continuous, ongoing improvement of the activities worthy of keeping, eventually leading to innovation.
In considering the above areas of the future, you have great opportunities for professional self-development, improving your library, and helping to create a better future for your organization. For instance, one of Drucker’s long-held ideas was “the future that has already happened.” This can be interpreted a number of ways, but one interpretation is that you consider the coming, perhaps inevitable, effects of trends or events that have already happened. What are these events or trends, how can you find out about them and what do they mean for your organization’s future?
Position yourself as an expert on the future. Librarians and other information professionals can provide a valuable service to their organization by uncovering these trends and events, and helping to determine their meaning. Fortunately, this plays to the strengths of the profession: intellectual curiosity and the ability to find and communicate relevant, valuable information.
This can be accomplished in many ways, and no doubt some libraries are already engaged in activities of this nature. Along with regular, focused literature searching and perhaps competitive intelligence programs, taking advantage of human intelligence can provide a powerful way to determine the future that has already happened. Drucker regularly talked with, and met in groups with members of his high-level professional network. Librarians and information professionals can do something similar, by engaging in areas that many may be already doing: meeting at work, on a lunch hour or another time frame, in configurations such as book groups, discussion groups, roundtables, brown bag events or journal clubs.
The idea is that these meetings should be future-focused. Discussions can center around books, articles or related areas that are in some way future-themed, or could have an effect on the future. You might also tap into the insights and resources of such organizations as the World Future Society and the Institute for the Future. Even if the highest-ranking people in your organization do not attend these meetings, brief and focused reports could be supplied to them, and perhaps eventually they will start attending. This not only demonstrates that you are concerned with doing something about the future of your organization, but it is a great opportunity for personal learning and networking.
A key differentiating factor for you over other professionals is your access to and deep knowledge about databases and related online sources that others are clueless about. How can you use these sources to greatest advantage in determining ways you and your organization can create the future?
Now is the perfect time to understand your role in creating the future of your library and your organization, and how it will change, evolve and improve.
Bruce Rosenstein is Managing Editor of Leader to Leader, a publication of The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute (formerly the Leader to Leader Institute and earlier the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management), and Jossey-Bass. He is the author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life (Berrett-Koehler, 2009) and Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward-Focused Mindset (McGraw-Hill, November, 2013). He worked as a librarian and writer for USA TODAY from 1987-2008, and since 1996 he has been an adjunct professor in library and information science at The Catholic University of America. Learn more about Bruce, and contact him at www.brucerosenstein.com.