What the research methods of Drucker, Einstein and Freud had in common

Drucker wrote that the companies he consulted were his research labs. His research was based on observing what was happening, a type of research also practiced by Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, which is called analytical research.

Drucker arrived at his theories not in a laboratory surrounded by microscopes, computers, and scientists in white coats, but through his observation and analysis of people, things, and their interactions. Drucker said management is not a science but rather a liberal art.

Therefore, while most management researchers use the method of synthetic research with multiple observations that test one or more hypotheses for statistical and mathematical differences, Drucker used liberal arts and analytical research.

Einstein also used analytical rather than synthetic research methods. In 1905 he produced four groundbreaking papers in one year, winning the Nobel Prize in Theoretical Physics. None of the four were written in a lab, but rather in his spare time while working his first post-doctoral position as an assistant patent examiner at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. Again, this was considered analytical research.

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How Einstein Developed His Two Most Famous Theories

While at the Swiss Patent Office, Einstein both devised the theory of relativity and developed history’s most famous equation (E=mc²), the conservation of energy equation. The first was structured around imagining yourself traveling along a beam of light.

It is possible that Einstein inspired Drucker through his methods as they are similar. While Drucker observed phenomena and the interactions of people in organizations, Einstein observed things.

Einstein’s explanation of analytical research

In a London Times article written in 1919, Einstein explained what he called his “principle theories.” He wrote: “[I] used the analytical method and not the synthetic method. Their point of departure and their foundation are not hypothetical components, but general properties of phenomena observed empirically, principles from which mathematical formulas are deduced in such a way that they apply to all cases that arise.

As Einstein explained, analytical research uses obtained data and a hypothesis based on multiple inputs. It then tests the hypothesis mathematically for a significant difference to prove or disprove.

I don’t know if Drucker and Freud read Einstein’s article. Drucker was only ten when it was published and I doubt he knew English at the time. He did, however, refer to Einstein in a post, so it’s possible he read that specific article.

Most academic researchers take the approach of synthetic research. Analytical research, on the other hand, begins with an unknown and continues towards the known and there are no assumptions. One definition of analytical research is “a specific type of research that involves critical thinking skills and the evaluation of facts and information relating to current research”. Freud believed that by analyzing dreams and memories, we can understand them, as they unconsciously influence behavior and feelings.

The analytical process is how Einstein, Freud, and Drucker all arrived at their theories. Their analytical approach used a simple three-step model:

  1. Observation, real, imaginary or mental imagery
  2. Analysis of what was observed
  3. Construction of the theory from these observations

They observed the results of their psychological techniques without multiple investigations or assumptions. As a result, Freud’s psychoanalysis, although widely adopted and the basic process still in use, was never called a science.

Why Business Books Resonate Better Than Marketing Textbooks

I discovered Drucker’s analytical methods about 30 years ago when I was invited to participate as a member of a panel of authors of marketing textbooks at a university conference. The purpose of the panel was to discuss the lack of influence of marketing manuals on management practices and a question was specifically addressed to me.

I was the only one of the five academic authors on the panel who had written both professional books for practicing managers and textbooks for students. The question was why managers seemed to delay for many years the adoption of the latest practices described in the manuals while the innovations appearing in the “business” manuals seemed to be almost immediately tested and adopted by the practitioners. I think someone mentioned Japanese management and total quality management as recent examples.

I thought for a moment, then replied, “Textbook authors need to bring together research from many sources to confirm the main points or theories they discuss in their textbooks. In many cases, there are alternative theories to present regarding proposed methods for practice.

“Furthermore, the time required for the author of the textbook to conduct research must be added to the time available to the original researcher to conduct experiments, including collecting data from multiple sources, testing hypotheses, and search for suitable academic journals for publication It may take several months before such a paper is even accepted.

“Even after the manual is published and used in the classroom, the manuals are used to instruct students and rarely read by practitioners. It may take several years before these students are in a position of authority and able to put into practice what is taught. Nevertheless, research journals are generally more respected than books by researchers at academic institutions and their accreditors.

“A professional book based on a theory resulting from personal observation can be applied more quickly to practice because it passes directly into the hands of a practitioner who can use it immediately.”

This was confirmed by eminent consumer behavior researcher Jagdish Sheth in a presentation in which he noted that although he had numerous publications in research journals over a period of thirty years, he did not received only two requests in total from these articles, while he had recently completed an article for the Wall Street Journal and received nearly 200 letters from practitioners.

Theories that have gained prominence in published books

While preparing a lecture for PhD students on the value of writing professional books for the dissemination of theory as Drucker did, I came across additional material supporting Professor Sheth’s experiment.

Many of the most widely disseminated management theories first reached practitioners by publishing a book and passing the information directly to the user. These are not only Drucker’s Management by Objectives from The Practice of Management (Harper & Brothers, 1954) and other methods derived from Drucker’s theories, but also Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs disseminated through his book Motivation and Personality (Harper & Brothers, 1954) and Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y disseminated in his book The Human Side of Enterprise (McGraw-Hill, 1960).

Many articles have been published in research journals on these topics, but this was after professional books had already been published by the authors of these ideas and the theories had already been tested and known to practitioners.

The research that has been published has been written to confirm or refute various aspects of the theories that the authors of the book introduced, or the authors themselves wrote to help define their theories that they had previously published in books.

Drucker’s methodology and thought

Drucker empirically observes the general properties of phenomena or, through his questions and their answers, has his clients do so. He did not start with synthetic mathematical formulas into which data was inserted to determine the best method, but used his powers of observation and reasoning to determine the theory and then further test this material as he saw it. saw applied.

Perhaps that’s why, although Drucker claimed he always started with ignorance, he insisted on metrics and numbers when seeking to quantify performance and progress. Yet he mostly ignored quantitative means in developing his theories.

The process he followed was less clear and when asked about his methods, he said he listened to “himself”. This comment was made in a humorous, non-arrogant manner and it is likely that Drucker was speaking 100% accurately.

He listened to his own logical reasoning in developing the theory or applying the resulting theory in his clients’ action. That he followed a set process was clear although unlike Einstein he did not publish it. Yet it is highly likely that their methods were similar, if not identical.

This important tool was part of Drucker’s considerable mental arsenal. This is all the more important since he did not use mathematical analysis models to arrive at his conclusions and recommendations. I cannot state the mathematical equations or his preferred methods for determining significant differences, as he did not teach us any.

Yet if we understand that his observational and analytical thinking processes resembled those of Einstein, we can do the same in research and management decision-making and achieve similar results.

This does not mean that synthetic research should be abandoned. Only that these investigations could be accomplished more effectively in certain situations by a different means and therefore that other research methods can be used.

*Adapted from Peter Drucker on Consulting: How to Apply Drucker’s Principles for Business Success published by LID in 2016 and Consulting Drucker: Principles and Lessons from the World’s Best Management Consultant

What do you think of the advantages of analytical research over synthetic research? Let us know in the comments below.

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