Drucker on The Educated Person, Part 1

In his book, The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, Peter Drucker analyzed the ways that management practices and principles affect the performance of organizations, individuals, and society. The book covers the basic principles of management and gives professionals the tools to perform the tasks that the environment of tomorrow will require of them.

These are my takeaways from reading the book.

Drucker thought that the knowledge workers would play a pivotal role in a post-capitalist era. In this chapter, Drucker offered his thought-provoking observations on what individuals and organizations should consider in a shift to the knowledge society.

Drucker believed that the concept of the educated person is the core of a knowledge society. Whereas traditional societies may be local and separated by geographical boundaries, the knowledge society is global. This post-capitalist society requires a leadership group, which can focus local and separate traditions onto a shared commitment to values and excellence, based on mutual respect.

The educated person, therefore, not only needs to be able to bring her knowledge to bear on the present, but also to have a role in molding the future.

The educated person will have to be able to appreciate many cultures and traditions, and, if necessary, integrate her work with those cultures and traditions. By becoming a “citizen of the world,” tomorrow’s educated person will have prepared herself for life not only in a global world but also increasingly a tribalized world.

The educated person also will have to be far less exclusively, in Drucker’s term, “bookish” than the product of the typical education system. She will need a fully trained perception as much as hard-core analysis.

Drucker envisioned the post-capitalist society is both a knowledge society and a society of organizations, each dependent on the other and yet each very different in its concepts, views, and values.

In that environment, most educated persons will find themselves practicing their knowledge as members of an organization. Therefore, an educated person must prepare to live and work simultaneously in those two cultures. One is the culture of the “intellectual,” which focuses on words and ideas, and the other is the culture of the “manager,” who focuses on people and work.

Intellectuals see the organization as a tool; it enables them to practice their specialized knowledge. Managers see knowledge as means to the end of organizational performances. Both are right. They are opposites as two poles on a continuum, but they are not contradictory to each other.

Both cultures need each other because when one overbalances the other, the performance of the organization degrades and result in all-around frustration.

When left to its own device, the intellectual’s approach can turn into one in which everybody “does his own thing” but nobody achieves anything. The manager’s only approach, unless counterbalanced by the intellectual, can quickly become the stultifying bureaucracy of the “organization man.” When the two cultures balance each other, creativity, order, fulfillment and mission become much more likely.

Because of the importance of both the intellectual and manager cultures, Drucker encouraged us, all educated persons, to prepare ourselves to understand and participate in both cultures.