Management is undoubtedly one of humankind’s most important inventions. For more than a hundred years, advances in management—the structures, processes, and techniques used to compound human effort—have helped to power economic progress. Problem is, most of the fundamental breakthroughs in management occurred decades ago. Work flow design, annual budgeting, return-on-investment analysis, project management, divisionalization, brand management—these and a host of other indispensable tools have been around since the early 1900s. In fact, the foundations of “modern” management were laid by people like Daniel McCallum, Frederick Taylor, and Henry Ford, all of whom were born before the end of the American Civil War in 1865.
The evolution of management has traced a classic S-curve. After a fast start in the early twentieth century, the pace of innovation gradually decelerated and in recent years has slowed to a crawl. Management, like the combustion engine, is a mature technology that must now be reinvented for a new age. With this in mind, a group of scholars and business leaders assembled in May 2008 to lay out a road map for reinventing management. The group’s immediate goal was to create a roster of make-or-break challenges—management moon shots—that would focus the energies of management innovators everywhere. The participants were inspired in part by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, which recently proposed 14 grand engineering challenges—such as reverse engineering the human brain, advancing health informatics, and developing methods for carbon sequestration—for the twenty-first century. Why, we wondered, shouldn’t managers and management scholars commit to equally ambitious goals?