[EAS]Drucker on the Next Society

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Nov 7 01:36:13 EST 2001

Subject:   Drucker on the Next Society

Dear Colleagues -

More closely reasoned than the item (at the bottom) about Drucker
from BUSINESS2.0 magazine is a long-awaited multi-part article by
Peter Drucker himself in the current issue of The Economist (it was
originally scheduled around Sept. 11th):


> Tomorrow is closer than you think. Peter Drucker explains how it
> will differ from today, and what needs to be done to prepare for it.

Or as the science fiction writer William Gibson put it: "The future
is already here, it's just unevenly distributed."

Drucker proceeds largely from demographics, e.g. the shift in age
distribution of the work population and related changes in patterns
of work. In that sense he offers an example of the kind of scenario
building I recently referred to in
<http://www.yale.edu/engineering/eng-info/msg00929.html>, based on
demographic driving forces. Drucker also looks at the steady
decline in factory jobs

> A CENTURY ago, the overwhelming majority of people in developed
> countries worked with their hands: on farms, in domestic service,
> in small craft shops and (at that time still a small minority) in
> factories. Fifty years later, the proportion of manual workers in
> the American labour force had dropped to around half, and factory
> workers had become the largest single section of the workforce,
> making up 35% of the total. Now, another 50 years later, fewer than
> a quarter of American workers make their living from manual jobs.
> Factory workers still account for the majority of the manual
> workers, but their share of the total workforce is down to around
> 15%­more or less back to what it had been 100 years earlier.
> Of all the big developed countries, America now has the smallest
> proportion of factory workers in its labour force.

The knowledge worker is the new capitalist. This has many
implications for education and for the structure of organizations. 

> Knowledge workers see themselves as equal to those who retain their
> services, as "professionals" rather than as "employees". The
> knowledge society is a society of seniors and juniors rather than
> of bosses and subordinates.

And as Charles Handy pointed out 'as long ago' as 1985 in his book
"The Future of Work", knowledge workers will go through probably
three distinct phases in careers that will span up to 50 years, as
they detach from the "white-hot" corporate core into looser and
less stressful orbits around it. Each phase will require adjustment
and further education. With their OpenCourseWare initiative
<http://www.yale.edu/engineering/eng-info/msg00936.html>, MIT is
also building a basis for participating in future adult education

Unlike some well-known futurists, Drucker does not hyperventilate
in the 'future perfect' tense. His projections are provoking
because they are believable, though even at 91 he does not shy away
from moments of drama.

I highly recommend the Economist article,
<http://www.economist.com/surveys/showsurvey.cfm?issue=20011103> as
fuel for considering the future of universities, of workplaces
that, in untenured ways, will emulate universities in providing
educational benefits, and universities that will emulate workplaces
in seeking the profits of knowledge work.


Peter Drucker, generally considered the Founding Father of
management  theory, thinks that people who write about the Internet
tend to  misunderstand the nature of its importance. "There is a
misconception that  size equals performance. During the Internet
bubble, it was argued that  because the Internet is important, it
must be profitable. That does not  follow. Whether the Internet
will ever be profitable -- as a business or as  an industry -- is
doubtful. But its impact is unbelievably great." What  makes its
impact so great? Its ability to eliminate distance and thereby 
change the very nature of organizations, by redistributing work on
a  worldwide basis. For example, the technical and customer support
telephone  centers of many U.S. companies are now located in India,
because that  country boasts a large population of well-educated
and English-speaking  individuals happy to receive work. Drucker
says, "The important effect is  on the middle classes in these
half-developed countries. They don't see  themselves as part of
their [local] economy, but as part of the worldwide  developed
economy. This may be the next development: the emergence of 
psychologically global middle classes." (Business 2.0 October 2001)

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