Drucker on The Educated Person, Part 2

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.

As the transition to the knowledge society becomes the norm, the educated person will find herself getting exposure from many knowledge areas. However, Drucker doubted that we either need or will get what he called the “polymaths,” someone who is at home in many knowledge areas.

In fact, Drucker believed we would become even more specialized. But he also pointed out that the educated person in the knowledge society must have the ability to understand the various knowledge and discipline. The understanding often will come down to asking the following, potentially hard, questions about each discipline:

“What is each one about?”

“What is it trying to do?”

“What are its central concerns and theories?”

“What major new insights has it produced?”

“What are its important areas of ignorance, its problems, its challenges?”

Just as important, Drucker believed that all knowledge needs to be sustained and renewed. Without such renewal effort, the knowledge will become sterile, or worse, become intellectually arrogant and unproductive.

Moreover, major new insights in one specialized knowledge area usually arise out of another, separate specialty. Without the purposeful effort to keep a knowledge area nourished and renewed, we run the risk of reducing our opportunities of finding new insight.

The specialists of the knowledge, therefore, must take responsibility for making both themselves and their specialty understood. The specialties must make others aware that their practice is serious, rigorous, demanding discipline. This requires that the leaders in each of the knowledge areas take on the hard work of defining what it is they do and market accordingly.

In the knowledge society, there is no “queen of the knowledges,” according to Drucker. Instead, all knowledge areas are equally valuable; and, in the words of the great medieval philosopher Saint Bonaventura, lead equally to the truth. But to create such paths to truth/knowledge, we, the specialists of the knowledge, must make this work part of practicing in our discipline.

Changes are hard to predict, but Drucker believed one thing is certain. “The greatest change will be the change in knowledge—in its form and content; in its meaning; in its responsibility; and in what it means to be an educated person.”