Was Drucker right after all?
Oh, Anne. I’m a huge fan. Always have been. Likely will remain so. You often provide amazing insight into the meaning of work in an increasingly connected society. Imagine my disappointment to see you take on Peter Drucker and find him wanting. Now, clearly, Drucker needs no defense. His writings stand on their own. But, I think you might want to examine the connection between the knowledge economy and the attention economy. They’re not as disconnected as you seem to think.
Here are four quotes from a piece Drucker wrote in 1996. I’ve emphasized key points, where appropriate.
“Charles Handy predicts that by the year 2000, practically nobody in the U.S. or U.K. will be an employee. I think that’s overreaching slightly. But the trend is clear: the employee society of organizations is mutating.”
While it doesn’t necessarily predict current working arrangement, Drucker recognizes the relationship between companies and employees will change. Further, Drucker recognizes the changing relationship between managers and employees, noting:
“We know that knowledge people have to be managed as if they were volunteers. They have expectations, self-confidence, and, above all, a network. And that gives them mobility…They carry their tools in their heads and can go anywhere.”
That sounds a fair bit like today’s web workers to me. Drucker continues, stating:
“I think we are going to have to learn to develop more kinds of working options… And we need to provide them much earlier so that people want to stay involved but can also be mobile.”
Again, it doesn’t exactly mirror web work, but it recognizes the common themes. Finally, Drucker often discussed knowledge work in the context of a larger organization:
“…the first constant in the job of management is to make human strength effective and human weaknesses irrelevant. That’s the purpose of any organization, the one thing an organization does that individuals can’t do better. The second constant is that managers are accountable for results, period… And the last thing to say about what remains constant — actually, it will become even more relevant — is that people in developed societies will become increasingly dependent on access to an organization. Because they are specialists, they need access to the specialized knowledge of others in order to do a job.”
That sounds mighty collaborative to me.