Detail der Verpackung der Gelben Sorte um 1925 Hans Domizlaff Archiv - Frankfurt am Main
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Detail der Verpackung der Gelben Sorte um 1925

Ernest Dale: The "Urfaust"

If there ever was an "Urfaust" in management, advertising and marketing thought, it is Hans Domizlaff.

He is one of the immortals of the managerial "symbolists". Everyone of course knows his symbols of Siemens and Reemtsma. Everyone knows - or should know - that he is probably the greatest symbolist of his age.

But to the connoisseur there are other sides to Hans Domizlaff. He has made a major contribution to aiding in the fateful transition from the genius of management to his successor. Unlike the usual management writer who recommends "system" as a partial substitute for genius, Hans Domizlaff pleads for a modern management Machiavelli in his Brevier für Könige [Handbook for Kings]. This counsel to the successors of geniuses or the founders of great empires is unique in its preceptiveness and in the helpfulness of its advice. Essentially the second-generation manager has to rely on his wits to preserve his position. If he is merely a slavish imitator of his predecessor he will probably be devoured by the irrevocableness of transitoriness, for he is bound to be destroyed by continuing as in the past and neglecting the uniqueness of the future.

But what can the poor successor to the genius do to keep in power as well as to continue progress?

First he needs superb advisers - and an understanding that those counsellors who are able are also apt to be treacherous (Machiavellists) while those who are loyal, may well lack ability (the Platonists).

Secondly, the "successor-king" must remain lonely for fear that his "friends" may usurp or destroy him.

Thirdly, he needs to shake up his management once in a while in a manner akin to the wanderer who uses his stick to shake up the ant-heap it will make everyone aware that there is a boss and that something needs to be done for him.

Fourth, he must be aware of his own limitations and practice constantly self-criticism.

Fifth, knowledge of people may be even more important than technical knowledge.

Sixth, the essence of the chief executive must coincide with that of his empire. Otherwise the two are not likely to understand one another adequately.

Seventh, balance among the various interest groups is needed above all. Finally, if the successor-king is going to try to conquer another empire, he should be wary not to destroy his own by the very act of devouring someone else.

Among Hans Domizlaffs other of many contributions are his personal philosophy. Nachdenkliche Wanderschaft draws the reader back to his essence and helps him to be aware of himself. The call to the return of the self and the constant awareness of self in return to others is perhaps his greatest contribution.

[Domizlaffs autobiographical book published in 1951 is titled Nachdenkliche Wanderschaft (Thoughtful wandering).]

This article by Ernest Dale was first published in: Begegnungen mit Hans Domizlaff [Encounters with Hans Domizlaff], 1967. Paul W. Meyer, Ed. Verlag Wirtschaft und Werbung, Essen. 154 p.