Getting the “Ungettable” Interview

Many have asked me how I was able to get Peter Drucker to cooperate with me and grant me a multi-day interview (even though it was later shortened). After all, in the publishing world he was known as someone who not only did not grant interviews to book authors, but also someone who ferociously protected his copyrighted works (meaning he did not easily grant authors permission to quote from his published works). At least, that was the perception of Drucker in literary circles. The reality was something different.

It is true that Drucker did not grant many interviews to books authors. I knew he had cooperated with an Atlantic Monthly editor more than a decade ago (Peter Beatty), but as a rule of thumb, Drucker did not speak with book authors.  He once said “one of the secrets of keeping young is not to give interviews but to stick to one’s work—and that’s what I am doing.  Sorry, I am not available.” To this day I wonder why he suddenly became available to me, a relatively unknown author. The full story is documented in the beginning of Inside Drucker’s Brain, but I will include a few details and lessons here.

First, never take anything for granted. Just because someone had granted few interviews in the past does not mean that he or she won’t change going forward. Drucker, who had just turned 94 before our full-day interview, had his legacy in mind when he opened his doors to me (literally, and figuratively). Getting that interview with Drucker was critical to putting together an important book, since he had written  so many books already (38 in all). In other words, sans new and fresh material, the book would have been far less compelling.

Timing is everything: Who knows? Had I contacted Dr. Drucker only a few months earlier it is likely he would have turned me down. Shortly before I had seen him he had been operated on for colon cancer. By the time he had reached his 94th birthday he had pretty much stopped writing new, original books (some of his works were compilations of earlier chapters and works). Although he had always denied that he was “the inventor of management,” he did nothing to dissuade me from that notion when I mentioned that to him in a letter I wrote to him in the fall of 2003.  

Understand “the urgency of now:” Once Drucker made the offer for me to visit with him and interview him in his home I quickly accepted. My personal philosophy has always been there is not “a moment to lose,” and that was certainly the case here.  Aside from Drucker’s age, there are always other unseen factors that might change the calculus. That’s why it always pays to pin down an important opportunity as soon as it presents itself.

Come back Wednesday when I describe how Drucker explained to me how he grabbed an opportunity when  it presented itself—one that put him on a new a path and changed his life’s work.   






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